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In Booming Shanghai, Exploring French Concession Rentals

Shanghai in 1990 and in 2012. Photos: ImgAce

Over the past two decades, Shanghai has experienced such a rapid redevelopment that it might be difficult to remember what came before all the glass skyscrapers and neon signage. From 1990 to 2004, an astounding 6,704 new hi-rise buildings were built in the city, China's commercial center, and that extreme rate of construction continues unabated today. Hidden amid the glass canyons are the remnants of China's colonial neighborhoods, most famously the French Concession. One of several areas where European investment was permitted during the late 19th and early 20th century, the French Concession remains a low-rise, leafy alternative to Shanghai's increasingly vertical housing stock and an attractive choice for expat renters.

Built in the 1920s, this 6,500-square-foot villa is now part of the Sinan Mansions, a collection of historic houses attached to the luxurious Hotel Massenet. Listed for lease for nearly $63,000 per month, this is one of the city's most expensive rental residences. That price does include "four en-suite bedrooms, a formal living room, a family room, [and] a study room," along 24-hour butler service and access to the hotel's health club and spa. Best of all, unlike one of the high-rises, this pricey residence boasts a beautifully landscaped private garden, surrounded by brick privacy walls.

? Those willing to forgo the hotel services can still find a charming old-construction house in the French Concession these days, and for far less rent. Listed for $12,000 a month, the six-bedroom, four-bathroom home is much smaller, but hardly cramped at 3,875 square feet. Historic charm abounds in the fireplace mantles, tall windows, original moldings, and brick archways, but the villa has also been updated with ceiling lighting and central air-conditioning, crucial in those scorching Shanghai summers.

? Built in the 1940s and referred to as an "Old Garden House" in the listing, this three-story rental looks anything but old in photographs, with a glassed-in living room, immaculate rear garden, sleek kitchen, and even an indoor-outdoor shower. All told the house has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a maid's room, a laundry room, and a coveted garage and is currently asking $16,000 per month.

? Located a short walk from the leafy Huashan Greenland park, this 3,850-square-foot rental combines modern glass with the existing historic architecture, to the tune of a heady $20,000 a month. The four-bedroom house has a wealth of build-in storage, a handsome roof terrace, and a dramatic antique wood door separating the living and dining rooms.

? A 3,200-square-foot villa with a sizable rear garden, this rental opts for a simpler, more traditional approach than some of the others on this list. The largely unadorned interiors include five bedrooms and three bathrooms spread over three floors, with the garden accessed through french doors and a roof deck crowning the structure. Perfect for a "BBQ party," the house is currently asking $14,500 a month.

· Shanghai [Emporis]
· Wall Heating Garden House for rent in Shanghai [Mona Lisa]
· Old House [Mona Lisa]
· Wall Heating House for rent in Shanghai [Mona Lisa]
· Wukang Road [Mona Lisa]
· Houses of Rent in Shanghai [Mona Lisa]