By Tracy Wang
Foodies used to making the 1,472-meter-long strip of spicy Chinese delicacies on Guijie their go-to spot beware: The western half of the street will be closed to parking and taxi drop-offs for the next two months as the street goes through a major upgrade that may leave the popular dining strip nothing like its former incarnation.
According to the Beijing Times, the Dongcheng district government will begin what is expected to be a five-month-long renovation project tomorrow, with the first phase being the replacement of gas pipelines and the installation of additional fire hydrants along the street. Restaurants found violating fire safety regulations will also be shut.
During the construction, city officials will not only forbid parking, but will also block people from pulling over to jump out of a car or cab. Bikes are apparently ok, but we suggest checking with the 80 auxiliary policemen that will be stationed along the street during construction before leaving your bike anywhere.
Businesses we contacted on Guijie said they would be open at normal hours during the construction, though it’s hard to imagine the project will not cut into the popularity of the street.
Also affected will be the streets running north and south from the west end of Guijie, near the Beixinqiao subway station: Yonghegong Dajie and Dongsi Beidajie. These streets are home to a bevvy of tourist areas as well as the beloved Cafe de la Poste and High Altitude Coffee.
Some speculate this process is the beginning of the end of Guijie as we know it: after the two-month pipeline project is finished, the city will spend an additional three months targeting food safety, traffic control, shop façades, and the strained relationship between local residents and the restaurants that populate the street.
Should it be the end, Beijingers will likely be polarized by the results: foodies and old-timers who don’t mind a little renao and grime to accompany their meal will nostalgically lament the end of an era, while local residents that those that need to use the neighborhood for commuting will likely rejoice.
Unsurprisingly, a poll of local residents conducted in June revealed that 98.5 percent of those dwellers think the street should be cleaned up (we assume the other 1.5 percent didn’t understand the question).
If you are headed anywhere near there by car or taxi, expect things to be SNAFU’d for quite some time as drivers adapt to the new traffic patterns. Better yet, don’t go by car at all: take the subway, bus or walk. If you insist on taking a taxi, you can hop off at Dongzhimennan Beixiaojie, Dongzhimenbei Zhongjie or east side of Dongzhimennei Dajie (Guijie).