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Replica plans unveiled for UK's Crystal Palace

Sylvia Hui, Associated Press

FILE- This is an undated file photo showing the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, England. Britain’s Crystal Palace, the Victorian exhibition center that was once the largest glass structure in the world, will be brought back to life with investment from Chinese developers. Shanghai-based Zhongrong Group plans to invest 500 million pounds (US$ ) to build a replica of the iron and glass building as a cultural attraction in south London. The Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, was the world’s biggest glass structure before it was destroyed by fire in 1936. The plans, announced Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 will replicate the building’s Victorian design in the original size and scale. (AP Photo/File)

LONDON (AP) -- A symbol of Britain's worldwide power during the 19th century will be rebuilt in London — with money from Chinese developers.

London officials announced Thursday that the Crystal Palace, the huge Victorian exhibition center that was once the largest glass structure in the world, will be brought back to life with a 500 million pound ($811 million) investment from Shanghai-based real estate firm ZhongRong Group.

The Crystal Palace was designed by Jeremy Paxton for the 1851 Great Exhibition, a spectacle in which tens of thousands of exhibitors from around the world gathered to display the latest products of the Industrial Revolution.

The exhibition, conceived by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, attracted millions of visitors to the iron and glass building. Victoria called the sight of it "magic and impressive," and novelist William Thackeray even wrote a poem celebrating the structure's opening.

Originally erected in Hyde Park, the glass structure — about the length of five soccer fields and six stories high — was moved three years later to south London. A fire destroyed it in 1936.

Officials said Thursday a replica, true to the Victorian building's size and scale, will be built on the same site as a cultural attraction and exhibition space. Development plans also include public parks, a hotel and conference facilities.

Ni Zhaoxing, chairman of ZhongRong Group, said the original Crystal Palace "is celebrated in China as a magnificent achievement."

The firm's investment was welcomed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Work on the project is expected to start in late 2015.