Urban redevelopment is transforming the North Bund into an eco-friendly area of craft shops, cafes, recreation grounds and sightseeing. The Rainbow Bridge in the North Bund (right) is a favorite place for Ni Li and her husband Zhang Minzhi. From the bridge, they can see their former community. (Jiang Xiaowei)
Great cities of the world are distinguished by their waterfronts. Think Sydney, San Francisco, Paris and Rio. Shanghai is rapidly putting its name at the top of the list.
Tourist Richard Huppatz said the banks of Shanghai's Huangpu River make him feel like he's back home in the Australian seafront city of Adelaide. Even better than home, he added.
Huppatz said walking along Shanghai's riverfront is a great way to get to know the city. He braved sweltering heat of 36 degrees Celsius recently to walk along the Pudong riverfront near the Kempinski Hotel where he is staying. Then he took a ferry to the opposite North Bund waterfront in Hongkou District.
"This is probably one of the best riverside areas in the world to walk, jog or cycle," he added.
The Bund in Shanghai has long been a magnet for residents and tourists alike, but now vast swathes of the riverfront are being redeveloped and opened to the public. More than half of the riverbanks in downtown Shanghai are now accessible.
Riverfront walkways and greenbelts feature walking, running and cycling paths, flanked by city historical monuments and popular scenic views.
By the end of this year, the city government plans to open up 45 kilometers of waterfront between the Yangpu and Xupu bridges. The entire project has been compared with the Left Bank of Paris or the Thames walkway in London.
Ni Li and her husband lived along the riverfront of the Huangpu River for more than seven decades before they were relocated to make way for urban redevelopment. Her family once operated a workshop supplying canvas for cargo ships.
The couple never tires of the riverfront. Living not far away, they walk to the Hongkou riverside every day after dinner.
"The waterfront has changed so dramatically," said Ni. "I can still remember scenes from my childhood — stevedores in ragged clothes loading cargo onto ships berthed along the river and foreign sailors milling around drunk."
In the past, access to major portions of the riverfront was barred. Nowadays, it's open to everyone.
"I feel like I am still living along the river," Ni said.
The Huangpu, Shanghai "Mother River," once served as a major shipping and transport hub with warehouses, wharves and factories. Over time, most were abandoned and left to decay. Old housing in the area became derelict.
Urban redevelopment is transforming the North Bund into an eco-friendly area of craft shops, cafes, art studios, recreation grounds and sightseeing opportunities. Historic landmarks in the area are being protected and renovated, according to the Shanghai Planning, Land and Resources Administration, the city's top planning body.