Work on the controversial Shanghai Harbour International Passenger Terminal Centre will start at the end of this year to provide Shanghai with an impressive "gateway to the world."
Civic planning chiefs said the scheme will breathe new life into the Huangpu River area, a key task of the municipality this year.
"This area is so decisive in shaping the image of the metropolis that we have to be very cautious about its layout to ensure it is long-lasting,'' said Yu Sijia, an official of Shanghai Urban Planning Administration.
Covering 146,000 square metres of Shanghai's famous river artery -- the centre will open an 850-metre stretch of coastline to international ocean liners and luxury yachts at an estimated cost of 3.2 billion yuan ($387.4 million)The centrepiece will be designed by Canadian-based Carols OTT/PPA Architects after several bids were submitted to Shanghai Port Authority over the past two years.
"The magnolia-shaped main tower and sail-like supporting structures are very creative and match the culture of the city,'' said Liu Wei, deputy director of the Urban Port Areas Integral Development Office under the port authority.
Occupying the top floors of the 240-metre-tall main tower will be a five-star hotel boasting 244 suites and world-class service. The lower floors will be offices.
On either side of the main tower are sail-shaped supporting buildings, one of which will be offices and the other will be a hotel.
The terminal centre will occupy just a small part of this complex.
Final plan to be decided
To the east is another sail-like building offering top-class serviced flats, according to the design blueprints.
It conveys the image of Shanghai sailing forward and showing off its top-notch services, according to June Chuang, chief representative of the Canadian designer.
But rumours persist that two major changes will be made to the design: one to move the main tower north of Daming Lu to open more space on the riverfront, while the other is to change the serviced apartments into a shopping area.
"That will ruin our original idea and will surely reduce the image of Shanghai's gateway to the world,'' Chuang said.
"But we are merely designers and will follow the order of the landlord.''
The final decision will rest with municipal leaders -- not the port authority.
Liu Wei said the project was so important that key decisions will be taken at the very top.
"The main shape will not be changed and we are now inviting several planners to make the constructions fit in more reasonably with the area,'' Yu said.
"We expect to present the final plan to city leaders within a month.''