By  on January 11, 2005

SHANGHAI — The world’s luxury brands have a new venue here in which to open up shop.

Bund 18, which launched in November, is the latest retail destination both in Shanghai and along the city’s historic waterfront, the Bund. It’s also further proof that, between its rising international profile, liberalizing markets and growing coterie of new rich, the eastern Chinese municipality of Shanghai is attracting ever-more luxury labels. Scores of retail outlets, including many a massive flagship, have opened in the past year, with many more planned, and high-end malls and boutiques are cropping up to meet the demand.

Mostly constructed in the Twenties and Thirties by Western banks and trading companies, the Bund — the curve of neoclassical structures — along the banks of the Huangpu River remains Shanghai’s signature cityscape. After decades of neglect under communism, the area remains mostly a tourist destination, and has been slow to develop the sort of consumer activity that has emerged in the downtown areas and across the river in the Pudong New Area. The seven-story Bund 18 complex is already home to two restaurants, a bar and Cartier’s China flagship, and once fully open, by April will add several other luxury shops, a cafe and an exhibition space.

The latest version of Bund 18 had its beginnings in late 2001 in Hong Kong, when managing director Janette Chang and some Shanghainese friends were lamenting the shoddy renovations of the city’s historic prewar architecture. Chang’s friends challenged her to do something about it, and in February 2002, she started looking at spaces offered by Jinsi Holding Co., the government agency that manages Bund properties. Chang and the Italian architect Filippo Gabbiani selected number 18. After submitting extensive proposals to convince the government, cautious with the highly limited and much-desired Bund properties, a 20-year lease was signed in November 2002.

Bund 18 Real Estate Development Ltd., the parent company for the project, derives its investment not from the usual real estate speculators but from Hong Kong Union Way Holdings, a commodity firm, and First Federal Banking Co. Both have shareholders interested in historic preservation, and were motivated by Bund 18’s unprecedented — for Shanghai — ambition to authentically restore an historic building for commercial use. Most of the other commercial projects in historic Shanghai buildings, such as Xintiandi and the neighboring Three on the Bund, totally gutted or even demolished and rebuilt the original structure, but Bund 18 has returned the building to much of its original form.

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