Thursday, October 21, 2010

Article on Taichung's Urban Decay and Expansion

Despite efforts over the years to revive Taichung's old Central District, the city's urban core remains in a state of rapid decline. In contrast to the stagnation of the old city center, development in Taichung's new Zone Seven is booming. In the August 2010 article One Taichung, Two Worlds, Commonwealth Magazine (天下雜誌) provides excellent context on Taichung’s urban decay and expansion issues.

The article notes the rapidity of Taichung’s modern urban development:

“Taichung's overnight urban expansion has been intense. Prior to the tenure of Mayor Tseng Wen-po in 1981, municipal Taichung occupied just 57.4 hectares. However, after eight urban development programs under Tseng and successor Lin Po-jung, the city expanded by 1754.2 hectares, growing 30 times over. From retaining a considerable amount of agricultural land, Taichung suddenly turned into a concrete jungle."

Commonwealth Magazine makes the connection between Taichung's rapid urban development and the profitability of a perpetual state of urban expansion:

“Besides currying favor with the public, it has additional benefits for the Taichung city government. Since the 1980s, development of rezoned city districts has become a major source of income for the city. Nearly all of the Taichung city government's dozen urban rezoning projects have made money. In the Phase Seven Urban Development Project – the most profitable of them all – sales of land alone generated revenues of NT$9.45 billion, and after subtracting development costs, it still produced net profits of NT$5.2 billion.”

Lastly, the article also highlights the difficulty in reversing the trend of urbanization.

“when high rises are built on agricultural land, there is no turning back, raising the cost of "greening" and environmental protection efforts.”

Taichung's simultaneous urban decay and sprawl should be a familiar narrative to many cities in the developed world. Taichung will face serious challenges to rejuvenate its central district and alter its course to a sustainable path of urban development. More to come on this issue soon.

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