This is a preliminary investigation of redevelopment performance of three “urban villages”, located at the core of a major Chinese city. It shows that, when land use change occurs at a high rate, rural-urban transition may appear in urban core areas. Social and physical changes take time given building lag and ambiguous property rights. The process may be regarded as a structurally deepening rural-urban transition, in a ‘market distortion’ environment. Land market inefficiency is evident, with physical, institutional, financial and ‘random’ causes, leading to diverse social and economic outcomes. Each village may evolve differently to serve certain social-economic functions in city. “Idle property” clearly indicates pure social cost. Reducing the pure loss (e.g., redevelopment failure) is important. Questions such as “what are the risks and barriers in redeveloping urban villages” deserve further analysis.