A stunning man-made island once touted as a potential European-style central business district is now wasting away after no one turned up to fill its new buildings.


Residential blocks, fine dining establishments as well as high fashion shops were all allocated and built on the artificial island in Suzhou City, in East China’s Jiangsu Province.


But the area known as "Huoli Island" - Mandarin for "Island of Vitality" - has lain empty since shortly after its completion in 2007.


Hundreds of millions of pounds were invested into the project in 2006, with the island quite literally raised from the waters of the local Jinji Lake.


The idea behind the island, dubbed "Suzhou’s Northern CBD", was to turn it into a European-style hub, complete with a spacious main square and park.


One year and 26 hectares of new land later, however, proud property developers and investors were left hanging their heads in disappointment as none of the locals turned up to visitor the upmarket businesses.


Expensive Italian and French restaurants were invited to set up shop, as were well-known designer brands. Developers had intentionally placed Chinese restaurants, teahouses and karaoke bars there too to make the area more familiar to the locals.


Over the years, many have speculated as to why the promising island became what is now being called a "ghost town".


Sheng Chengmao, an official with China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, explained: "Huoli Island is what it is today not because of poor market research or bad planning.


"There was plenty of investment, but there simply wasn’t enough spending power within the local community."


But Sheng believes there still may be a chance for the island to thrive, as the Suzhou City government has recently invested in high-end equipment manufacturing as well as the service sector.


The island’s chances, Sheng says, depend on how successful these new initiatives are.


Author: Scott Feng

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