Cleared for takeoff

Dalian Wanda’s controversial new tower gets airport thumbs-down

Cleared for takeoff

How it's supposed to end up

While most buildings in China are not built to last – the vice-minister for construction, Qiu Baoxin, after all declared two years ago that the bulk of apartment blocks are made to last no more than 30 years – the speed with which the Mianyang Bauhinia Ethnic Secondary School in Sichuan was torn down caught most people by surprise.

Especially, it seems, the Hong Kong government.

That’s because the school, which stood for only two years, was built with the help of donations from Hong Kong for the reconstruction of Sichuan after its devastating earthquake in 2008.

But the new school was demolished itself in May to make way for a commercial building developed by Dalian Wanda, a firm whose name may be familiar to WiC readers (it spent $2.6 billion recently on AMC, the second-largest US cinema chain, see WiC151).

The Hong Kong government has subsequently demanded the return of the $256,400 that it donated towards the school’s construction, says the South China Morning Post.

But the school’s replacement – which is still under construction – can’t seem to stay out of the news.

Last week, the local government accused Fucheng Wanda Plaza, the name of the new structure, of exceeding height limits and causing problems for a nearby airport. Dalian Wanda was told to chop 10 floors from the 32-storey high-rises.

As it turns out, Mianyang’s airport has been cancelling night flights and rerouting daytime routes since April, after a plane had difficulty landing and was directed to an alternate airport.

The night time ban at the airport is affecting more than 30 flights a week, resulting in an annual loss of Rmb12 million ($1.88 million).

“Our aviation department has had to adjust part of its daytime take off and landing operations and cancel night flights,” a spokeswoman for the Mianyang foreign affairs office told Global Times.

Other city officials told Times Weekly that the Dalian Wanda building – located just 2.4 kilometres from the airport runway – never received full approvals.

Tearing down the requested floors will cost the company Rmb200 million.

However, Dalian Wanda spokesman Liu Mingsheng maintained that it had done nothing wrong: “Wanda Group would not make such a stupid mistake because we are a professional and experienced property developer, with all our building designs, construction schedules and other details being submitted to relevant government departments for approval,” says Liu.

Meanwhile, construction of the building stopped at the end of June even though advertisements for the development are commonplace around the city, says the Beijing Times. Sales at the new development have also come to a screeching halt since it made the headlines. Worried purchasers have also been demanding a refund.

It remains to be seen whether the developer will remove the 10 floors as instructed, but in the meantime many are wondering who is to blame for the mess.

A city government with “the worst planning skills” or a property developer that is “acting like a bully”, asks Xinmin Evening News.

Most are siding with the developer, finding it hard to believe that Dalian Wanda would have got away with building a high-rise without approval from the local government.

“These days even the construction of an ordinary house requires the approval of government departments, not to mention a building that is 32-storeys high. It is hard to believe that for such a large project like the Fucheng Wanda Plaza, the developer wouldn’t have sought approval in the first place,” says Changsha Evening News.

“The fact that the government officials claim they have no idea about the construction is clearly a dereliction of duty.”

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