China's little Paris: 'Our Champs Elysées is a very lively place'

Photo of Tiandu Cheng posted on Weibo.
 
 
With a Champs Elysées, Haussmann-style buildings and an Eiffel Tower standing proudly over the town, Tiandu Cheng is surprisingly … French. Targeting the thousands of Chinese homebuyers with a taste for French architecture, Tiandu Cheng is a miniature Paris. And a small number of inhabitants already call this mock-up home.
 
Literally translated as “Sky City”, Tiandu Cheng is a 1900-hectare zone built by the Guangsha group, the largest private developer in China. Located about 45 minutes from Hangzhou and only 170km from Shanghai, this Paris clone was built from scratch. Started in 2007, construction is still underway; it is expected to be able to house around 100,000 residents by the time of its projected 2015 completion. Villas in Tiandu Cheng, largely more expensive than the apartments, are priced at abuot 600,000 euros; a luxury in a country where the monthly salary of employees in the private sector is on average 300 euros.
 
Photo courtesy of Robin Chubb. First published on Bricoleurbanism.org.
 
This "Sky City" has been mostly depicted in western media as a ghost town, with some people claiming there are only around 30 inhabitants. Such claims irritate Mr. Zhu, a local who moved into one of the new three-bedroom apartments three years ago.
 
Replica of a fountain of the Château of Versailles.
 
A dried-out fountain in Tiandu Cheng.
Contributors

"It’s not at all a ‘ghost town’"

 
I chose to live here because it’s close to my workplace and it’s quiet. My building is typically Parisian - not too tall - and I can see the top of our town’s mini Eiffel Tower [which is 108 metres high; the original is 324 metres high]. It’s a beautiful area that’s well-lit at night. It’s not at all a ‘ghost town’. People who live here generally commute to downtown Hangzhou city. In the evening, everyone comes home, and there are lots of parked cars in the streets … Some areas are still under construction, so of course they’re empty. I’d say there are around 2,000 people living in Tiandu Cheng. We have a kindergarten, a primary school and buses that go into the centre of town.
 
Photo courtesy of Robin Chubb, first published on Bricoleurbanism.org.
 Mr. Zhu plans to move out of the area, but only because he is changing jobs, and his new workplace is too far away to commute. As with Mr. Zhu, local real estate agents like Mr. Yang, contacted by FRANCE 24, insist that many apartments are occupied and that one must keep in mind that the area is still under construction.

"You might get a bit bored"

Real estate prices in Tiandu Cheng aren’t out of the Chinese middle class's price range. Depending on whether or not they’re furnished, rental properties go from 600 yuans [80 euros] to 3,000 yuans [about 400 euros] a month. Buying properties that are currently under construction can be quite cheap, at around 7,000 yuans [850 euros] a square metre, since buyers would only be able to move into these properties in 2016.
 
Our Champs Elysées is a very lively place with lots of stores. But as Tiandu Cheng encompasses such a large area, not all of the streets are as lively or economically viable, and a lot of stores for the moment remain empty. So unfortunately, if you don’t have a car to go into Hangzhou city or just to move around the area, you might get a bit bored.
 
Photo posted on Weibo.
Most people who have visited the area agree that this “Sky City” is primarily an affordable alternative to the real Paris for young Chinese couples wishing to celebrate their wedding in the ‘City of Light’.
 
In fact, these couples can now opt for other European-style ‘trips’, as similar replicas of Swiss, English and even Swedish towns have recently popped up near Shanghai.

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