TIANJIN, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- For decades, Huangcaotuo in northern China's port city of Tianjin remained what its name literally means -- a village on a piece of wild grassland.
Now called Huaming community, it is home to a number of high-tech institutions, including a research institute affiliated to the prestigious Tsinghua University, an optoelectronics institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an industrial base for robots.
Last year, the total production output of Huaming surpassed 10 billion yuan (1.47 billion U.S. dollars), making it an economic powerhouse in Tianjin. It also became a regional hub for smart manufacturing.
Huangcaotuo's transformation from a small village to a high-tech zone has surprised many local residents.
"Until the 1990s, many villagers still lived in shabby adobes. The roads often became very muddy when it rained," said 75-year-old Yu Juxiang. "Due to the high density of saline-alkali in the soil, villagers could not earn much from farming."
In 1994, Huangcaotuo was renamed to Huaming town, but it was not until 2005 that the town began its massive pace of urbanization, which was largely driven by an innovative plan for a housing swap.
The plan allowed villagers to swap their rural housing land for apartments in the new town. It not only freed up land for urban construction but also moved villagers into new homes without costing them too much.
In addition, commercial gain from the surplus land covered much of the cost in urban construction, considerably reducing government investment.
Yu moved to a new home in 2007. "At that time, I was partially paralyzed from cerebral infarction," he said. "I couldn't have recovered to my current conditions if I hadn't moved to the new home."
In 2010, the urbanization process of Huaming was showcased at the Shanghai Expo and hailed as an exemplary case among more than 100 development projects across the globe.
In 2012, Huaming entered a new phase of development after authorities in Tianjin decided to build it into a high-tech zone. In a few years, a large number of universities and research institutions launched high-tech projects in Huaming.
"The influx of high-tech projects into Huaming not only indicates production upgrade but also signifies a higher level of urbanization," said Yu Lili, deputy director of Huaming's management committee.
The fact that those who live in Huaming far outnumber its registered residents shows that the community has become a magnet for talent with technological expertise, Yu explained.
Looking ahead, authorities in Huaming are focusing their efforts on developing smart manufacturing, aiming to build the community into an industrial hub for information technology, electrical engineering and robotics.