Sun, May 29, 2016 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Jhongsing development continues, despite high costs

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

People walk through a terrace at the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Central Taiwan Innovation Campus in Nantou County’s Jhongsing New Village on May 3.

Photo: Chen Wei-han, Taipei Times

Once the seat of the Taiwan Provincial Government, Jhongsing New Village (中興新村), a planned community founded in 1956 in Nantou County, has nearly become a ghost town.

At its peak, when the Taiwan Provincial Government was still an effective entity, the pastoral village had a population of 11,000. Constitutional changes in 1997 transferred most of the Taiwan Provincial Government’s authority and responsibilities to the central government, essentially turning it into a nominal institution and resulting in a large population outflow as government employees relocated.

Only about 4,600 people still live in the village, where a significant number of buildings have been abandoned and damage caused by the 921 Earthquake in 1999 is still visible.

In 2008, a proposal to rejuvenate the 259 hectare community was proposed by then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as part of his “12 Love Taiwan Construction Projects,” which had been bedrock of his election campaign. The proposal was aimed at transforming the village into a new research center for emerging and advanced technology.

The NT$11.9 billion (US$365.84 million at the current exchange rate) Advanced Research Park project was announced the next year, which was designed to house 250 research and development facilities, provide 13,000 new jobs and introduce 16,500 new residents to repopulate the village and revive the local economy.

The park was supposed to focus on high-tech research and development, as well as the cultural creative industry, but no manufacturing was allowed, as 90 percent of the village has been designated as cultural sites by the Nantou County Government.

“The idea behind the Advanced Research Park project was to transform the village into a large living lab where cutting-edge technology can be tested, such as a remote healthcare system, smart home devices, ‘green’ energy and intelligent transportation systems,” then-deputy minister of science and technology Lin Yi-bing (林一平) said earlier this month.

A glimpse of a bright future was shown: a smart home converted from an old dormitory in the village. A solar power system generates enough electricity to sustain the structure and six other households, while a healthcare system that monitors residents’ conditions allows for remote medical diagnoses and interfaces inside the house interact with residents based on their mental and physical status.

Another highlight was the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Central Taiwan Innovation Campus, a modern building that is also one of the greenest structures in Taiwan, using 57 percent less electricity than comparable normal buildings and was the nation’s first building to be recognized with two top green building awards. The incubator helps facilitate cooperation between companies, start-ups and government agencies.

“Only knowledge-based research facilities are eligible to operate in the park, and the industry cluster effect is growing as more entities enter the park,” Lin said.

However, despite being well-envisioned, the Advanced Research Park might fall short of success.

To date, the government has spent NT$6.1 billion on the project since 2010, NT$5.5 billion of which was used to expropriate properties in the park’s south, and the project is expected to cost another NT$5.8 billion by 2020, according to the Central Taiwan Science Park, the authority and developer of the Advanced Research Park.

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