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MAGAZINE, September 2002.
BOULEVARD : Bringing Taiwan's past, present
and future together in Taichung
By Douglas Habecker
Ask any Taichung resident--Taiwanese or foreign--for
directions to Taiwan Boulevard today and they will probably
look at you a bit strangely and tell you they've never heard
of it. As catchy as it sounds, there simply is no such road
anywhere in Taiwan.
Or is there? According to a group of Taichung
academic, business and government leaders, Taiwan Boulevard
already exists, right under our noses, and will be the key
to packaging and promoting Taichung tourism, business and
investment domestically and internationally in the future.
If all goes according to plan, Taiwan Boulevard will be as
well known among Taiwanese and many visitors as the Champs
Elysees, Broadway, the Bund, Rodeo Drive and other famous
roadways around the world.
Before readers shake their heads and write
this off as a pie-in-sky dream with no substance, they should
consider the fact that the Taiwan Boulevard Association, primarily
made up of local business and academic representatives (including
the COMPASS' editor-in-chief), was officially registered in
July and has already held a series of well-attended seminars
on the subject.
the city government under Mayor Jason Hu and Taichung
County Magistrate Huang Chung-sheng have also thrown support
to the idea. As this article was being written, specific
plans are being made to develop the Taiwan Boulevard plan
over the next several years and the city government has
requested a three-year budget proposal, which will also
be forwarded to the central government for further funding.
Organizers have also received positive feed-back from
the private sector, which is expected to share development
is it? What is it?
So, where is Taiwan Boulevard? No "Taiwan
Boulevard" street signs currently exist and no road maps
list it, although these things are already in the works. Simply
enough, Taiwan Boulevard stretches about 24.2 kilometers between
the Taichung railroad station and Taichung Port, over what
is more commonly known as Chung Cheng (Jung Jeng) and Taichung
Kang (Taichunggang) roads. According to planners, the current
road names will not change, but will be subsidiary to the
larger Taiwan Boulevard name and concept.
However, the Taiwan Boulevard plan goes far
beyond the provision of a catchy name to an existing roadway.
Rather, it is an effort to give Taichung something that it
has, to its detriment, lacked for some time--a defining central
theme. It is this theme under which the city's and, as the
name implies, the nation's past, present and future history,
culture, commercial and economic development can be showcased
and promoted. The fact is that Taichung's "culture city"
moniker has worn thin over the past decade or two of drastic
change and is hardly mentioned with a straight face anymore.
At the same time, city residents and leaders are left scratching
their heads when asked to define what Taichung is, or what
its central strongpoint or theme is.
Thomas Liou, associate professor of Feng Chia University's
Graduate Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning,
has been among the individuals driving the Boulevard plan,
together with business leaders like Ho Chen-hsiang, president
of Mystore Bakery Company and two flour mill companies.
According to Liou, one of the greatest purposes of Taiwan
Boulevard is to simply remind local residents of what
they already possess in Taichung, and inspire them to
cooperate with those strengths.
"Since about 1987, when the science museum
and art museum opened, nothing significant has happened in
terms of big public projects. People are always talking about
a new mass rapid transit system, or an airport, always about
what is going to be. The Taiwan Boulevard concept tells people
that this is what we already have, to hold on to it and make
it better. Instead of asking for something, to take what we
have and learn to appreciate it....Taichung city has a lot
of strong points to be brought out," he said.
Ho, whose family-run Mystore Bakery was founded
in 1945 and is one of the oldest businesses in the city, grew
up in the heart of old Taichung's Central District and watched
it decline over the years. Searching for a central theme to
rejuvenate his home town with, he hit upon the idea of Taiwan
Boulevard, which had not been used anywhere else on the island.
Since then, he has worked tirelessly to promote his dream.
According to him, the key here is Taichung's
important role in and strong link with Taiwan's overall history
and development over the past century. A lot of people, not
least residents themselves, are ignorant of the fact that
the city was originally designated as the island's first capital,
or that its lay-out was designed by an Englishman. (See "Interesting
facts about Taichung's earliest years".) From the late
19th to the early 21st centuries, each step of the island's
evolution from colonial backwater to modern economic powerhouse
is represented in some way or some place within a short radius
of Taiwan Boulevard. As Ho and Liou would like to remind residents
and outsiders, it's all right here--history, culture, business,
shopping, recreation, trade, dining and much more.
ambitions dovetail nicely with local government leaders'
on-going efforts to boost Taichung's image and reputation
nationally and internationally, not to mention business,
trade and investment. Plans range from Mayor Hu's high-profile
efforts to woo a branch of the world-renowned Guggenheim
Museum of modern art to the city to former Mayor Chang
Wen-ying's efforts to develop Taichung into the island's
"high-end culture and living capital". Expanding
on that theme, the current mayor is aiming to create a
"cultural, economic and international city"
and make Taichung the island's most livable city within
four to five years.
to Taiwan's Heartland"
As Taiwan Boulevard Association members readily
admit, such an ambitious plan will require a multi-pronged
approach and will develop and be implemented over a number
of years, beginning with some very basic steps. As noted above,
the city government has already requested a three-year budget
proposal, estimated at NT$900 million, towards landscaping,
environmental improvement and other costs. Plans call for
overall funding to be split three ways between the city and
central governments and the private sector.
Current plans call for Taiwan Boulevard--the
"Gateway to Taiwan's Heartland"--to be separated
into five zones, based on fairly natural divisions as one
travels from the train station to the harbor. The station
to the city's "green belt," around Chingkuo Boulevard
and the science museum, will be the "Historic Taichung,"
followed by "Commercial Taichung," which continues
up to the north-south freeway and includes many of the city's
top shopping, dining and entertainment areas. "Technology
Taichung," encompassing the Taichung Industrial Park
and the planned Science-Based Industrial Park continues to
the Tunghai University area. Beyond that, on top of the Tatu
Mountain and including the Taichung Metropolitan Park, is
"Scenic Taichung." Finally, there is "Harbor/Bay
Taichung," encompassing the entire port area.
these zones are dozens of existing attractions, plus planned
ones, that will be packaged and promoted under the Boulevard
plan via special maps, tours, signs, special bus routes
and other means. The very broad range of existing sites
includes Taichung Railroad Station, Stock 20 Warehouse
art gallery, Taichung Park, Taichung Winery, Taichung
Central and Tiger City malls, the city's department stores,
major city hotels, well-known restaurants and dining areas,
Chunghua Night Market, Taichung City Hall, Taichung Cultural
Center, Taiwan Museum of Art, National Museum of Natural
Science, First Square, Chingming 1st Street ("tea
street"), Taichung Flower Market, Tunghai University,
Taichung Industrial Park, Taken Scenic Area, Taichung
Port Area Art Center, Taichung Metro Park, Chingshui Park,
and Taichung Port.
Boulevard planners are also proposing the
development of other new attractions and features, including
a Taiwan Boulevard Memorial Hall, a Taichung Museum, 9-21
Earthquake Memorial Hall, world exhibition and convention
center, and ROC military museum. To conveniently tie all this
together transportation-wise Liou and others are pushing for
the construction of a monorail system that runs up and down
the Boulevard. With an estimated cost of NT$200 million per
kilometer, or NT$5 billion in its entirety, a monorail is
being touted as the least expensive and easiest route to developing
a mass rapid transit system.
As Liou notes, the Boulevard's five zones
and various existing and planned attractions also essentially
reunify Taichung city and county, which were divided into
separate administrative units about 50 years ago. The new
plan provides an opportunity and encouragement for city and
county governments to work together and illustrates the reality
that the two areas are in fact very connected.
More basic, practical development will include
the creation of visitor information centers, new signs, redone
sidewalks in some areas, public art displays and other beautification
projects. All this will require a joint effort between the
government and private citizens and businesses, stress organizers.
Towards this end, the city is being asked to come up with
uniform zoning codes, with a "carrot-and-stick"
system of encouragement and enforcement. The private sector
will also be encouraged to clean up and contribute. According
to Liou and Ho, one key incentive will be the organization
of large-scale promotional activities--such as a proposed
Taiwan Boulevard Marathon Race and various international festivals--to
orchestrate public consciousness.
"You may have a messy house but, when
guests come, the first thing you do is clean up. If there
are large, seasonal activities, people will clean up to welcome
visitors," said Ho.
private and public representatives work together to see
this plan through, Taichung residents and visitors can
expect to see and hear more of Taiwan Boulevard in the
months and years ahead. Liou says that concrete, visible
changes can be expected within three years, but stresses
once again that the Taiwan Boulevard, indeed, already
exists. The educational process and reminder that the
Boulevard provides to the people of this city is every
bit as important as any future construction or development.
"The first major step is to wake up people
who are living in Taichung, to let them see how great what
they already possess is," he says. "It's a learning
process--learning to enjoy what we already have."