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Urban Renovation Renews Community Life in Chongqing

By Xinhua|May 14,2024

Chongqing - One community in southwest China leading the local urban renewal revolution is Houbao in Nan'an District, Chongqing Municipality. Home to over 2,000 senior citizens, this community is not only transforming old residential areas, but also their residents' daily life.

Since 2021, besides renovating buildings, streets and other infrastructure, Houbao has welcomed 12 new and interesting retailers, from cafés to hotpot restaurants, and invited over 60 volunteers in design, media and other areas to run a series of activities, such as exhibitions, dances, and poetry recitals.

In the community's "living room," a repurposed unused building, a postcard of Yang Daren, 78, and her friend Huang Lihui, 74, dancing at a retro-style party is on display.

"I loved that party a lot. These creative young people really are a breath of fresh air," said Yang. She said before the urban renewal, the road was uneven, and they were a little bit afraid to go out for a stroll. Now, the road is flat, there are streetlights and the community has lots of facilities and activities on offer.

Yang mentioned that she sees many young people every day, making the neighborhood feel dynamic and providing opportunities to learn new things, like trying coffee or attending poetry readings.

Peng Yin, 34, who is in charge of the community's operation, is the catalyst behind all this change. "I wanted to create a new 'life pattern' here in Houbao, which is funny, friendly, relaxing instead of dull, racing, and exhausting. I think that's why so many people are attracted to it and some even didn't get paid."

A 40-year-old cycling enthusiast, who is nicknamed Lei Lei, is among the newcomers who decided to open a shop in the community. She had worked in real estate for over 10 years but decided to pursue her real love -- cycling -- in 2022. Her first bold move was funding a cycling club in Chongqing, a mountainous city that rarely sees bikes.

"I was concerned this club might fail since Chongqing has lots of slopes, and hills. However, people showed surprising interest and my club now has over 4,000 members," said Lei Lei.

Lei Lei also introduced Brompton, a renowned English bike brand, to Chongqing. While many big shopping malls are vying to get this brand in their malls, she chose this isolated community last November. "Shopping malls eye the commercial value; however, Houbao emphasizes the person. They want to bring together a group of people who hold enthusiasm, love, and passion for life. I am touched by it," she added.

Liu Zhipeng, a 42-year-old catering businessman, had a similar experience. After a decade of working in insurance, Liu quit to become a restaurateur in 2018. The Houbao native opened a shop in the community in 2020, part of efforts to live a slower life and rekindle the old memories of his childhood.

"I got to know Peng and other people during a series of community activities and I felt that our outlooks matched. So When they invited me to join them and open another hotpot restaurant, I had no hesitations," said Liu.

Aside from Lei Lei and Liu, a 26-year-old yogurt shop owner, nicknamed herself as Mao Mao, was another to get tired of the grind. She quit her office job and opened her ideal shop here.

"I think our community magazine's title, which is 'Retire Early' encapsulates these shop owners' common thoughts," said Peng.

Peng added that retirement does not refer to lying flat, but learning to enjoy their life by being devoted to things their true interest lies in. This is what Houbao wants to present in this fast-paced world.

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