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Source: ANBOUND
Thursday, August 22, 2019

As an integral part of urban life, urban public space is an important platform for members of society to gather, engage in social interactions and construct social relations. In an equal and shared public space, people can freely display their own culture, identity, and appeals. They live in urban spaces with a rhythm of daily life that is completely different from the rhythm of both capital and market, making social relations that come along with more human touch and the city a more heart-warming place to be in.

A good urban public space will not only improve people's quality of life, enhance urban cultural value, and form good civic ethos, but also improve the city's outlook and enhance the city's vitality, not to mention promote positive consumer behavior.

For this reason, the concept of pedestrian-oriented development (POD) advocated by ANBOUND puts public space at a very important position. We hope that the city can correct the neglect of public space during its period of incremental construction. POD is not only able to correct the prioritized position of public space and commercial activities, but also bring about a breakthrough in the principles of conventional urban design and development and shift the focus from mere image building to sharing and communication of public space. This will then be an entry point for the relevant authorities to carry out urban renewal and stimulate urban vitality.

For the construction of urban public space, the current problems are mainly concentrated on the lack of land for public space. This is especially true under the policy background where there are strict controls placed on the scale of urban and rural construction land, in addition to the gradual reduction of new construction land use indicator. Hence, it is increasingly difficult for public facilities projects to be directly implemented through new construction land allocation or transfer. Optimizing urban land use structure by revitalizing the stock construction land and solving the bottleneck of public space construction development is an important issue for local governments, especially for first-tier cities in China.

As a common problem in various countries, many cities have been actively exploring methods of resolving the problem of insufficient land use for public space and putting them into practice.

The experiences of New York can also serve as a good example. In response to the surge in urban public space demand in the mid to late 20th century, the New York City authority passed an amendment to the Zoning Resolution on December 1961, allowing New York to relieve itself from the pressure of public space land use in a series of innovative initiatives. For example, the establishment of an incentive zoning system, which rewards and permits changes in zoning conditions (such as building height, parking lot conditions), encouraging developers to voluntarily provide public spaces, schools and low-income housing required by the society. Moreover, for public spaces built on private land, developers only need to submit them to the City Planning Commission as an annex to the construction plan for a compliance review. Once they meet the minimum standards required by the zoning act, they will be able to get the appropriate approval and the corresponding floor area rate reward. There are also cities in China that are currently experimenting with this approach, and Shanghai is one notable example. In the land implementation rules for Shanghai's urban renewal, which was officially promulgated in 2017, it is clearly stated that there is a necessity to increase the market participation in public space and public service facilities by establishing incentive policies, such as those concerning building capacity, commercial projects with public open space or public service facilities, additional building area can be increased according to the specified public elements. Building area will hence be awarded for the developers who can provide both public open space and public service facilities.

Shenzhen is the first city in China that proposed the concept of urban renewal. One of the highlights of urban renewal over the years is to guarantee the supply of public land through innovative policies and measures, thereby achieving the balance of market interests and public interests. There are two major measures that must be mentioned here.

First, the transfer of public land to protect the public interests of the city. In order to solve the bottleneck of Shenzhen's land resources, maintain public service facilities as well as the implementation of major industrial projects, the Shenzhen Municipal Government issued the "Implementation Rules for the Shenzhen Urban Renewal Measures", requiring a proportion of the land within the scope of the urban renewal should be handed over to the government after demolition and consolidation. The public land handed over to the government will be mainly used for urban infrastructure, public service facilities, and urban projects related to public interests. In addition, the public land area transferred should be more than 3000㎡, and not less than 15% of the demolition and reconstruction area. On this basis, the "Regulations on Land Information Verification and Historical Land Disposal for Demolition and Reconstruction Urban Renewal Units" is further issued. With the regulations, the proportion of land to be transferred is set according to the type of renewal units and the proportion of legal land in the renewal units. In general, the smaller the proportion of legal land in key renewal units, the higher the proportion of land to be transferred.

Secondly, the bundled implementation of public land and renewal projects. The Shenzhen Municipal Government recently issued the "Regulations on the Implementation of the Urban Renewal of Externally Transferred Public Facilities in Shenzhen" which innovatively bundled the public land and renewal projects together, allowing the renewal project implementer to straighten out the economic relationship of public facilities outside the scope of demolition, and allowing for the demolishing of the buildings and handover of the land to the state without any conditions. At the same time, a proportion of legal land use and appropriate compensation measured by the building will be given to the renewal project that undertakes the transfer responsibility. This kind of bundled implementation of renewal projects in the form of "enclave" enables the government to obtain public land. It also helps the project implementer to promote the implementation of renewal projects and obtain the transfer of some building areas, so as to achieve a win-win situation with the participants in urban renewal by means of marketization.

(Note: For all questions under the key categories, clients can make a request to the ANBOUND Urban Research Center for further discussion, including requests for relevant information, assessments, and consultations on specific urban development issues. The ANBOUND Urban Research Center will provide specific evaluating opinions and direct assistance to facilitate the client's project operation and ideas according to the needs of the client.)

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