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SHANGHAI-John Portman & Associates Inc. recently broke ground on the 193,750-square-foot Jian Ye Li, an adaptive re-use, mixed-use development here. The Atlanta-based developer plans to keep the neighborhood’s original architecture while recreating and modernizing the interiors.

“The overall concept for this mixed-use development is to create an international destination for people to come and experience Shanghai’s culture and history. It will be comprised of for-sale residential, serviced apartments, retail and restaurants,” Lell Barnes, VP with Portman tells GlobeSt.com.

Jian Ye Li was initially built as a housing complex for low-income families who worked for the Jian Ye Li Construction Co. Original drawings from 1928 offer a basic sketch of what Portman is attempting. In 1994 the Shanghai Municipality declared the area a protected heritage site. Portman will be working on 51 residential units, 40,000 square feet of retail space and 50 serviced apartment units. Construction is scheduled to complete in September 2010. Portman declined to state the projects total cost, but an earlier report gave $105 million as the price tag.

“The Jian Ye Li project presented us with the opportunity to revitalize a rundown section of the picturesque French Concession district and bring the whole area back to life,” Barnes says.

The first stage of construction, underway now, involves dismantling the structures on the East portion of the site, which will be turned into residential and retail spaces. “The materials are being sorted, assessed for usability and cleaned as appropriate for reconstruction,” Barnes says.

The project will also include a water tower that is indicated in the 1928 drawings. The original design is uncertain, so Portman has opted to create a modern abstraction of a water tower. The structure will include copper lattice work with original Jian Ye Li brick. It has become the project icon.

Traditionally, Portman focuses on large urban high-rise projects; such as the 151-story Incheon Tower in South Korea. The firm’s website lists 16 project in Shanghai alone. The goal behind many of Portman’s projects is to create ‘people places,’ which is a spot where someone can walk away with a memorable experience.

“Throughout our firm’s history, Portman projects have consistently served as catalysts for economic growth and future development by first being catalysts for human interaction and communication,” Barnes says. “The creation of ‘people places’ is at the core of our practice. We understand how to balance design and business decisions to create memorable experiences for the users and favorable returns for the owners/operators.”

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