This street was lined with herbalist shops: both the older buildings at right and, strangely, the entire ground floor of the new building at left as well. Eventually, the block on the right will get redeveloped, the shops will come back like hermit crabs, and the market will continue as it has for another 100 years — with no physical memory of what it once was. Just like mini-malls in Southern California, where a generic envelope contains gosh knows what. Pragmatic, perhaps, since the existing buildings probably aren’t that rooted in their place, either — yet still disappointing.
Jane Jacobs highlights “the need for aged buildings” as a generator of diversity and vibrancy; in the U.S., the developers of the new building would seek to fill their retail spaces with high-rent “credit” (i.e., chain) tenants. Not so in China. (One could argue whether block after block of tiny shops all selling the same herbs really constitutes diversity, though.)