I don’t remember when I first started to notice the changes. I don’t walk down that stretch of Fuxing Road every day, but at least once every couple of weeks.
It must have been two years ago – the first signs. Second story windows were boarded up – the businesses started leaving to be replaced by itinerant watermelon stands or pop-up fur coat sellers.
Then last year – the bricks started to appear. I now understand that is the beginning of the end for the low apartment blocks that line Shanghai’s streets. When the bricks appear, the complex is doomed.
Slowly, the street turned from a pretty tree lined home into a ruin.
Six months ago a good friend pulled me into the still living complex at night. It was a rainy evening and the rain gave an other-worldly feeling about the place. We wandered and gawked, feeling slightly guilty at intruding into an area which was obviously dying. Now, things have deteriorated even further.
Tricycles line up each day to cart away the parts of the houses and their contents that still have value. Sometimes it is foam, wood, even wire. Men are dwarfed by the enormous loads.
From the street the buildings don’t look inhabitable, but among the wreckage I can sometimes see laundry drying on a line or a bicycle carefully parked by an abandoned doorway. The final squatters won’t go until the heavy equipment comes in. How long that will be, I don’t know.
Some people call photos like these “ruin porn” – I can understand why. It is so difficult to look away and so easy to imagine that that was once your home – now turned into a shell of its former self – soon to disappear forever.
And what will they build? Likely something like what is across the street – a complex with guards and pretty landscaping and tall buildings. It looks very nice. A place with fully functional plumbing, a place that is clean and safe and costs millions of dollars to buy a unit. The rent for one month could be six months salary for those who originally lived across the street.
Where will those people go? Where have they gone? Is this progress?
This is my Shanghai.