Residents stroll at the "pocket park" on Lane 1039 Kongjiang Road Community. (Zhong Nan)
They are old, unsightly and illegal — but now some unlawful structures in the downtown area are being turned into "pocket parks" to create more green space in Shanghai's densely populated areas.
In one of the latest examples, a 4,000-square-meter pocket park was built in Yangpu District during the National Day holiday, catering to more than 1,000 households on Lane 1039 Kongjiang Road Community.
Camphor, magnolia, maple, cherry and cinnamon trees have replaced hundreds of illegal structures built by residents to expand their limited living space in the Tangjiata area, one of the most densely populated communities in Yangpu, the district government said yesterday.
Vineyards, chairs and a 200-meter walking path have also been built for residents to relax and walk in the first park ever created for the community which dates back to the 1950s.
Eighty percent of the residents in the Tangjiata area, named after a Taoist pagoda demolished in the 1950s, are living with shared kitchens and bathrooms.
Residents began building their own kitchens and toilets in the 1990s in public areas. In its heyday, more than 250 simple houses were built in the passages of the neighborhood, nearly half of which were rented to out-of-towners.
Many unlicensed stores were also opened along Liaoyuan Road E. and Wanfu Road, including small restaurants, fruit stores and barber shops. Some of the owners lived and worked in the same premises, posing a safety risk.
More than 10,835 square meters of illegal structures were found during a survey by the Kongjiang Road Subdistrict early this year.
The government launched a demolition campaign early this year in the wake of a citywide campaign to remove illegal buildings across the city to improve safety, living standards and the environment.
The district government also plans to renovate buildings to provide separate kitchens and toilets for more than 100 households, Yangpu government officials said.
The measure to turn illegal developments into small parks has become a trend among downtown districts. Many residents who initially refused to demolish illegal structures eventually came around to support the campaign.
In neighboring Hongkou District, a similar pocket park has also opened in the Tilanqiao Subdistrict, near the North Bund area along the Huangpu River.
The mini-park on Wuzhou Road, for which admission is free, covers only about 50 square meters — slightly more than the size of two large hotel rooms — but has various plants and flowers, exercise facilities and a walking path.
It replaced a 40-year-old row of shabby temporary houses.