HCMC to revive mega urban project after 27 years

By Huu Nguyen   March 10, 2019 | 12:52 am PT
HCMC to revive mega urban project after 27 years
Citizens of the Thanh Da Peninsula resort to fishing and planting crops on their land instead of building houses, which they are not allowed to since 1992. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Ho Chi Minh City plans auction the work of building an eco-urban area project that had been abandoned since 1992.

Five companies have already registered with the city’s planning and investment department to bid on building the Thanh Da Eco Urban Area in Thanh Da Peninsula, Binh Thanh District, not far from downtown HCMC.

The city is looking at establishing criteria for holding an auction to find investors and also reviewing the detailed project plan to make adjustments as the old plan prepared by the project’s former investor is "no longer suitable," says Vo Van Hoan, the city's chief of staff.

The municipal authorities will also revise the boundary of the project to leave more households out of the plan area, which would free them from construction regulations that have prevented them from building new houses on their land.

Previously, following a proposal from the construction department, the city had allowed locals in the project site to repair and upgrade their houses instead of completely banning them from doing so.

These decisions are a game changer for 3,400 people who have been living in limbo for the past 27 years in downgraded houses, not knowing what will happen next.

Approved by the People’s Committee in 1992, the Binh Quoi-Thanh Da Urban Area project, referred to as "super project" by many locals, is estimated to cost VND30 trillion ($1.32 billion).

In 2004, the city repossessed land in the Thanh Da Peninsula and allocated it to the Saigon Construction Corporation, which was supposed to be the investor.

After the corporation failed to begin implementing the project, the city asked another company to step in, but this did not work, either.

The project was forgotten for another decade until late 2015 when the city appointed Vietnam's Bitexco Group and the UAE's Emaar Properties PJSC as joint investors with a capital of over VND30 trillion ($1.28 billion).

Under this arrangement, the project was supposed to be implemented over 50 years, with primary construction work being completed within five years from the date of signing.

In mid-2017, Emaar Properties PJSC withdrew from the project and the city has asked the government to approve Bitexco as the project's sole investor.

But it took another six months to assess the ability of Bitexco and seek approval from higher authorities. Eventually, the PM wrote to HCMC, concluding that it was very difficult for Bitexco to go on with the project on its own.

In this situation, thousands of Thanh Da people have been caged in confusion and misery, living in slum-like conditions, unable to repair their own house or build new homes on their own land, or even sell parts of their property.

At a meeting of the city council in July last year, chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong promised that the city would deal with the project thoroughly and not let any more delays to happen.

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