Monday, October 09, 2006

Guanghua Computer Market Redux

The current "temporary" buildings housing identical, cookie cutter computer businesses. All the anarchy that made Guanghua so special is gone.

Last year I blogged on the destruction of Guanghua, the famous computer market that was a city landmark for so many years. Wolf Reinhold, one of the island's most perceptive commentators, had written an excellent article at POTS on the issue. Then, Reinhold had written:

RECENTLY, ANGRY shopkeepers from the Guanghua Computer Market (光華商場) in Taipei gathered in front of the city council building to protest the decision to close down their market.

Long a fixture for locals and foreigners alike, the market offers an eclectic mix of everything computer and peripherals on one floor to used books and magazines, music CDs and movies on another.

One of the largest computer trade shows in the world - Computex 2005 - on its Web site calls Guanghua "an important shopping spot, which you can never miss...."

Well, this year's Computex buyers, estimated to be around 27,000, were to be the last foreign crowd to shop at the venerable and important bazaar.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, calling the place and eyesore and unsafe, announced that the market will be demolished. Ma further announced that an alternate location will be provided by 2007. He also previously said that a temporary site would be found for the shops before the current site was pulled down.

It's deja vu all over again as the Taipei Times had a feature today deploring the terrible situation facing the angry shopkeepers formerly of Guanghua...

During an inspection tour of the market last week, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) lauded the convenience and safety of the new mall, and dismissed concerns that the market's competitiveness would drop after relocation.

"The shopping environment of the original market was neither comfortable nor safe. The new mall provides bigger and cleaner spaces ? I don't think the market will become another Jiancheng Circle. The stores have survived for years," he said.

Most store owners, however, did not share Ma's optimism about the market's future.

Hsieh Hsin-feng (謝新鋒), owner of a computer accessory store, told the Taipei Times that business at his store had dropped approximately 50 percent after moving to the temporary location. The decline of business has made not only him, but most of the owners, afraid of relocating to the new mall.

"I don't think the situation will be as bad as the Jiancheng Circle, but I am still worried ? Many customers told me that they were used to shopping in the old market. I fear that they won't come to the new mall," he said.

Chu said the design of the temporary location, which houses stores in four separate trailer houses, has failed to attract as many shoppers as in old market.

What's the issue with Jiancheng Circle? The article explains:

It wasn't until the Taipei City Government demolished the Guanghua bridge and the old market last year with plans to relocate the stores that vendors began to worry that the new modern shopping mall will scare shoppers away and make Guanghua the next Jiancheng Circle -- Taipei's oldest night market that was forced to shut down this July after the city government's reconstruction project failed to attract crowds.

A project manager for the Taiwan Solidarity Union, one of the Green democracy and independence parties, had this to say in the Taipei Times a while back:

Taipei's oldest food market at Jiancheng Circle was consigned to history on July 2. A massive reconstruction project to rebuild the market was undertaken after it was damaged by fire in February 1999, at a cost of as much as NT$200 million (US$6.18 million). The result was a cylindrical building of glass that had pretensions of becoming a local landmark -- but totally failed to meet practical needs.

If we examine the Taipei City Government's eight-year urban renewal plan -- from Lungshan Temple's withdrawal from an underground mall project to Shilin Night Market's poor performance since being relocated -- a great amount of government money has been spent without any result.
Wikipedia has the sad history of the Jiancheng night market, along with links. Last time I visited Guanghua, they were still tearing down parts of it. I never had a chance to visit Jiancheng, but I'll miss Guanghua, now just another sterile collection of identical shopfronts.


Anonymous said...

OK, but, if the old market had collapsed in an earthquake, everyone would instead blog about how irresponsible the government was blah blah blah...

Its boring, but I shop at the new market just as much as the old one, actually more. Did we really come here for the architecture?

Mark said...

The really important part, i.e., two level underground part of it off of 新生南路 (between 忠孝 and 八德) is still alive and kicking! I just picked up a DVD burner, some pirate printer ink, and an entire separate computer last week.

Fear not! The 光華上場 we all love is still there. We just lost that overpriced building under the bridge (actually we lost the whole bridge), and got another lame over priced market up on 八德路 in exchange for it.

Battlepanda said...

When will they learn. When will they learn! You can't just uproot and sanitize traditional markets and expect the magic to remain intact. Those traditional markets emerged organically and central planners who presume they can be improved upon by being turned into just another mall are arrogent and fatuous.

I hate the new Yuanhuan and I'm not surprised Taipei residents have shunned it. It is the epitome of all things pretentious and municipal at the same time. You can find restaurants in nearby areas that claim continuity with old eateries in the yuanhuan. But they snubbed the new yuanhuan.

BTW Michael, did you get my email?

Michael Turton said...

No! I didn't get your email. I really hate the new Guanghua "temporary" shelters. Maybe the mall will be good. But how will it be different from Nova?


amida said...

I think Ma gets the blame for the "new" Shihlin night market building, as well. Isn't that a big flop, too? (I'm not in Taipei anymore.)