One hutong community south of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square was bulldozed to make way for new shops modeled on old architecture, rebuilt in 2008 with new materials rather than reusing what was there before, to the horror of heritage buffs. It is now filled with Chinese and Western brand stores.
Dongcheng officials say the Drum and Bell square won’t become a commercial street and that the surrounding area will remain residential. But those in the immediate vicinity will have to leave.
Many aren’t sorry, and are looking forward to newer and bigger houses.
‘‘I wanted to move 30 years ago,’’ said one woman, who would only give her surname, Wang.
Liu Fengying, 64, is more wistful. Liu, who remembers three earlier generations of her family living in the neighborhood, hosted visitors while wearing a winter coat and sitting on a bed that took up about half of one of her two drafty rooms. A washing line was strung across the room, and a calendar with a drawing of a young Mao Zedong hung on the wall.
‘‘I'm not willing to leave,’’ she said. ‘‘But if the state needs this land, then we have no choice. They will give us a bigger house, but it’s just a little far out.’’
Johnson-Hill, the British entrepreneur, said he chose to live on a hutong because he wanted to bring up his children in a community, rather than in neighborhoods where ‘‘people live a meter apart but don’t even know each other.’’ His family lived on a courtyard with four Chinese families and wild ferrets in the roof.
‘‘Those families are now like family to us. Our children would come home and would go to our neighbors’ home before they came to our home,’’ he said. ‘‘The best days of my life have been spent living on hutongs.’’
AP researchers Henry Hou and Flora Ji contributed to this report.