Wednesday, January 03, 2007

City Residents Raising Money on Their Own to Build a Park

Residents in a meeting discussing their bid

The planned park

Concerned that an open space in their residential area in Guangzhou City will turn into more skyscrapers, some residents decided to build a public park on the spot by raising money on their own, an initiative pretty innovative for China's urban residents.

The park, in fact, was not a new idea. Six years ago, a planned park was included in the advertisement for the property and played as a major attraction to many home buyers. But the park never really came into being. For the past years, residents occasionally played soccer or flied kites on a piece of bare land, on which the park was said to be built, Guangzhou-based Information Times reported.

While looking forward to a nice park in an area surrounded by more and more new buildings, residents heard in 2002 that the government planned to use the vacant spot for commercial purposes. Residents were worried. “We are seeing closer and closer distance between buildings, and more and more traffic signals, but the government still wanted to change the planned park into more residences,” one of them said. Loathing the idea of living in another concrete forest, home owners decided to do something.

Learning from some government officials that the government had difficulty to fund the park, the residents volunteered to raise money by themselves. They are drafting a report to submit to Guangzhou municipal government, asking for permission to build a big city park, with fountains and recreational facilities, on the open space and they will pay for the construction expenses of about 30 million yuan (about $4 million).

Meetings have been held among interested home owners and the fund raising efforts so far have been promising. However, after all, these people do not own the land. The government does, instead, and it has the right to develop the land into whatever it likes.

Obviously, building hotels and business towers could bring much more income to the government than creating a park. To make things more difficult, the residents are trying to negotiate with the government to let them build the park at zero land cost. Unfortunately, a city government is not a charity, let alone the fact that the government could charge up to 250 million yuan for using the land. In addition, a real estate company is also eyeing on the piece of land, and it is willing to pay for the price of using it. Taking such big interests into account, an expert predicted little luck for the residents’ bid.

If the residents succeeded in the pursuit, they will set a glory example of urban Chinese residents’ grass-root fight for a better living environment. If they failed, well, it will just be another real estate project in an already over crowded metropolis, like what is happening almost everyday in China.

----by Josie Liu

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