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Cavernous hotel takes root in Shanghai
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An underground hotel slated to become the world's "lowest" is to be built in this city's suburbs.

The project, to be developed by the Shimao Group, has passed its environmental evaluation and is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

The five-star hotel, which will require an investment of about 600 million yuan (US$79 million), will be built in a cave by Tianma Hill, in the Sheshan national resort area. It will be part of the "Shimao New Experience", a massive real estate project.

The project will occupy some 428,300 sq m and will include a theme park, a nature resort and a shopping center.

The cave was formerly a stone pit with a lake at the bottom.

The hotel will have 480 rooms, 400 of them underground, Li Xuyang, a senior manager of the Shimao Group's architecture design department, said.

"Two stories will be built underwater, 17 will be within the cave and two more will be above ground," Li said. The roof of the hotel will only be 15 m above the cave.

"The idea was to take advantage of this unique land form and to create a garden growing in the air," Li said.

The design will make full use of the rock walls, following the natural curves of the cave.

"We won't consider expanding the cave, but we will make the best out of the present situation," Li said.

According to the artists' impressions of the hotel on the Shimao Group website, the design will accommodate facilities for extreme sports and certain aquatic activities like climbing and swimming in the underground lake.

Hot springs will be available 16 stories below the ground, and a dining hall and cafe will be built underwater on the 17th floor, near a 100-m-high waterfall.

Although the developer's PR department declined to provide any further specific information about the project, an unidentified source with the company said an inauguration ceremony would be held next week.

Meanwhile, the project seems to have won support from the community.

"Our company intends to tap the tourism potential of Tianma hill," Qian Wei, the PR representative of the Shimao Group, told China Daily. "And the Songjiang District supports the idea."

The hotel will also include underground presidential suites that will have the best views of the cave. Some of the underwater rooms will feature aquarium views, where guests can enjoy the exotic feeling of living under the ocean.

"It's hard to imagine how it feels to live 50 m or even 70 m below the ground, but it must be a wonderful experience," Li said.

(China Daily October 24, 2007)

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