Shanghai urban planners rival their New York real estate agents in their imaginative renaming of neighborhoods. Some have been flops: Sinan Mansions and the South Bund are still largely deserted, the latter despite the industrial-chic Waterhouse and a solid restaurant by Jason Atherton. I’m now hearing that the area around the Rockbund Art Museumis shaping up to be an emerging ‘hood. (It’s called, rather unimaginatively, Rock Bund.)
The city cleaned up six blocks of historic buildings near the museum, right behind the Bund, and pedestrianized it. All this is admirable but it could still turn into a mere extension of the Bund’s array of international luxury brands. Gucci recently opened a three-floor club. (Brian Ferry performed a show in April.) A couple of noteworthy restaurants have also moved in, including upscale Chinese restaurant Maison de L’Hui and an outpost of Hong Kong’s three Michelin-starred 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo.
China’s preservation projects are promising on paper, but they often disappoint. That’s because government planners think that evicting residents, tearing down old buildings, creating replicas, and signing leases with luxury brands and turning an area into a tourist trap is the best way to spruce up a neighborhood. Rock Bund might turn out differently because it actually has a cultural center as its anchor.
Jennifer Chen is Travel + Leisure's Asia correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at xiaochen6.