Not such a waste of space: businesses spring up in Saigon's old apartment blocks

By Phuong Dong   August 1, 2016 | 04:00 pm GMT+7
Not such a waste of space: businesses spring up in Saigon's old apartment blocks

Inside Saigon's worn out apartment buildings, clothing stores and indie coffee shops are blossoming.

Located in the southern commercial hub of Saigon, old tenements in districts 1 and 3 have become the ideal spots to do business thanks to low rents and a steady flow of customers.

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According to HCM City's Department of Construction, the city has 474 pre-1975 apartment buildings. While many of them are in a poor, run-down condition, others in central districts have been providing space for photo studios, cafés, restaurants, fashion boutiques and accessories stores.

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Rental costs in these old apartments are considered reasonable, especially in downtown areas such as Ly Tu Trong and Ton That Dam in District 1. They vary from VND10million (US$449) to VND40million ($1,794) per month, depending on the area, which can cover up to 100 square meters (1,076 square feet).

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Owners of smaller shops choose to rent spacious rooms to display their products and save on rent. In these buildings, wardrobes and fitting rooms are found next to long coffee shop tables.

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Apartments along Nguyen Hue pedestrian street are considered "golden positions" and have the highest rents. According to the manager of 42 Nguyen Hue, rooms with views of the street have all been turned into coffee or tea shops and eateries.

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With prices ranging from VND200,000 to VND5million, clothes, accessories and cosmetics appeal mostly to tourists, office workers and students.

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The buildings' nostalgic tone and cozy atmosphere has been combined with original interior design to attract young customers.

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According to the manager of the Ton That Dam apartment building, Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, there are currently only 20 families living in the old tenement as most residents have moved out and leased their homes to businesses.

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Reconstruction in these old tenements, however, raises concerns over safety and fire protection.

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Limited parking space and lift services are a major inconvenience for customers too.

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