Meeting with Maggie Zhou one of the founders of ‘LETS Cultural District’ at the former Daishan Industrial Park, gave great insight into the future of Zhuhai and what the city looks to gain from more original and exciting concepts such as hers.
The creative and cultural park is not the first in Zhuhai, but it would be the most modern and exciting park offering a range of fun and social activities suitable to a variety of ages. The district has four buildings which stand opposite to the main park, the park itself is 50,000 sq meters and offers football, basketball and skateboarding areas, there is also a children’s playground which is around 10,000 sq. meters, one of the biggest children’s parks in Zhuhai with imported facilities from overseas. Its all part of the overall idea to bring more people to the cultural district, there is also a theatre for performances and a large on site car park. The buildings all have different purposes, the first houses 175 refurbished rooms to rent in a dorm style layout, the second building will have a gym, meeting rooms and office facilities available for use for creative and cultural companies. The next building is where products can be sold from a range of unique designers, with workshops and arts and crafts lessons taking place on another floor, with many other things happening in the buildings including dance and music lessons , etc. All buildings host a couple restaurants to create optional choices for the public and tenants to choose from.
Sitting down with Maggie in the heart of the creative park surrounded by the energy and busyness of her team, and the construction workers outside, to really understand a little bit more about the park and her background.
Can you explain what is different about ‘LETS Cultural District’ in comparison to other creative districts in South China?
‘LETS’ is different mainly because of the relationship we have with the tenants, those who rent out the offices and the shops etc all have a closer relationship with the landlords, as opposed to other style malls. The tenants work together with the landlords to provide a unique experience to the visitors, rather than the standard contracted way of business, in ‘LETS’ everyone works together as partners to promote the creative culture in Zhuhai, and to find out other ways to work together. Our slogan at the park is:
‘A stage for your dreams’
This means that we are the owners of the stage but our tenants are the actors, and we give them the platform and essentially the space to express their talent and creativity. Within this district 40% of the space is for the public to enjoy freely, it really is a park for them to enjoy more than just a place of business which is what sets us apart. As we have a large amount of space, if we have companies in the cultural and creative sector they can use the public space, so we are less limited than other parks who have only a certain capacity to rent out to other companies and businesses, we are way more open.
How did you come up with this concept?
When working in V12, the first creative and cultural park in Zhuhai, I spoke to a lot of people working in this sector, people who are actively involved in the creative and cultural industry, and then I identified the new and changing needs. People that worked in the shops there and also many of the designers all wanted to find a better way to get their product out there and expand, but they were limited with certain parks as they would rake up charges with rent, manufacturing, materials, etc. So I came up with the idea to create the space for them, so they could provide their own services out of a place which was built to accommodate them. I became an investor in V12 and eventually CEO, and it made me think that there was a real and good future for these types of parks in this industry, so I wanted to be a part of it. The idea for ‘LETS’ came at the end of 2013, at V12 the government were keen about this kind of project, so when I spoke to them during discussions, I discussed ‘LETS’ with them and told them about this proposal. They were very interested and keen, and eventually got on board and helped in finding a place. The land needed to be quite large because of how much public space was required so they assisted with this and that’s when the project really took off.
Tell me more about your mascot and how you intend to put it to use?
Our mascot is called Tweeny. The idea of tweeny came around when the whole team sat down and we came up with idea of a character that collects people’s dreams, everyone has one but you can never see them. The character gets stronger with the power of your dreams, but the weaker your dreams the weaker your Tweeny gets. The mascot is fully incorporated in the project, there will be a large replica of Tweeny outside the park and also a dressed up mascot of Tweeny walking around interacting with guests.
The opening will take place over the Christmas period, what do you have in store for the guests for the opening?
The opening event is titled the ‘Tweeny Dreaming Festival’, the ideas for the festival are based around the themes of technology, a food wonderland, sports activities, designer goods and music/dance shows. On the 25th there will be a cosplay show, and on the 23rd/24th there will be a dance and music show. A range of activities will be taking place over the 3 day period, with the public looking to attend on the 24th on Christmas Eve, there is much to get involved in including the many sporting activities, enjoying the musical dance shows, take part in the technological tent hosting loads of revolutionary and interesting ideas, all while enjoying the great food that will be on offer.
You are a Zhuhai native, how do you see the development of the city so far, and the expansion of this project?
It is on the way up, I have been in the industry for around 5 years, I helped build V12 in Nanping, comparing that experience then to now, there is a big change, there are more investors, more interest and more desire for cultural parks. Zhuhai at the moment is quite boring for people and children, so we wanted to create a place that is just essentially fun. It was difficult because when you try to attract a range of ages from children, to teenagers to adults they all have their idea of ‘fun’, so that is why we have such a range of things going on here, so that there will always be at least one thing here that you enjoy. The city is improving quickly, the environment is great, its peaceful and nice, a lot less crowded than the bigger main cities and I just want to bring the fun to the city with a lot more things available to do than before. That is exactly what I wanted when I started this project, so the focus is on this now to get the park known and attract more people, I want to stay in Zhuhai so for now this is where all my attention will go.