HCMC transforms downtown parking lot into flower garden

By Duy Tran   March 6, 2018 | 09:00 pm PT
HCMC transforms downtown parking lot into flower garden
The flower garden behind the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran
The lot behind the iconic Opera House in the city center was closed late last year as part of the sidewalk cleanup campaign.

Flowers and grass are now growing on an area that used to be one of the biggest outdoor parking lots in Ho Chi Minh City thanks to a sidewalk cleanup campaign that swept the city’s downtown during last year.

Locals now have space to feed the birds and go for a walk on an area covering 1,000 square meters behind the city’s iconic Opera House in District 1.

The parking lot was closed in August last year after the man in charge of the city's sidewalk cleanup campaign decided that there was a management "conflict of interests".

District 1’s urban management department had managed the lot for 10 years since 2007, but the district's vice chairman, Doan Ngoc Hai, found that the license for the parking lot, which can hold hundreds of cars and motorbikes, had expired since July last year.

He suggested its management should be leased to an independent firm.

“The department’s job is to check and fine people for streetside violations. It shouldn't be allowed to run a parking lot,” Hai said.

Doan Ngoc Hai started the sidewalk campaign in early 2017 with a pledge to turn it into a “Little Singapore”.

But in January this year, Hai submitted a letter of resignation, saying he had failed to keep his public promise to clean up the sidewalks. However, city authorities have yet to make a decision on his resignation.

District leaders in the city then had been instructed to temporarily close all sidewalk parking lots by the end of March.

The city's People's Committee stressed that the sidewalks must be prioritized for pedestrians. If the sidewalks are used for other purposes that are deemed necessary they must be strictly regulated, not for profit and must not affect traffic or the city's urban image.

Existing lots will be allowed to stay open if there is a need for them. They will operate as fee-charging lots managed by the municipal Volunteer Youth Force or free parking lots managed by private businesses under a temporary license.

Parking vs green space

The city late last year dismissed a proposal to build vertical rotating parking lots in the city's downtown because the project would take up too much of the already limited public space.

An investor earlier asked to build four lots in District 1: at the September 23 Park outside Ben Thanh Market, Lam Son Square behind the Saigon Opera House, Le Van Tam and Tao Dan Parks, and one lot in front of Thong Nhat Stadium in District 10.

They could accommodate up to 500 cars with minimal footprint.

But the city’s chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong disagreed with their proposed locations, saying the city’s limited public space should continue to serve the public and that it would be better to build parking lots at entrances into the city.

Vietnam's largest city of 13 million people now only has around 130,000 trees. Each person can only afford to have two to three square meters of green space, according to the Ministry of Construction.

At the same time, the city is struggling to serve its rapidly rising number of cars.

Parking space in HCMC downtown now only meets around 7 percent of total demand, according to sources familiar with the matter.

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