This is the Future Southeast Asia construction update and trip report for Hanoi in 2023. The previous report was in October 2022, so this report covers updates in the last year.
I visited Hanoi in November 2023 and I happened to be there during a cold snap (cold for Vietnam at least). There were a few windy days when the cold front blew in, which cleansed the air while I was there. I’m writing this a few weeks after my visit, and Hanoi is currently ranked as world’s 3rd most polluted city.
Here are some of the site I visited while I was there.
The largest inner city development is Starlake City. This new urban area is west of West Lake, and is also referred to as Tay Ho Tay (West Lake West). The area will include the government administration area.
[Future Starlake City.]
I walked around here last year and there are new buildings since my last visit.
It’s surreal to walk around and see these wide and straight roads in a city famous for its crowded alleys.
The area has a long way to go before all the land is filled in and looks like a lived-in city, but it seems to be progressing faster than the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in Ho Chi Minh City. I will be interested to see what it looks like in a decade.
Lotte Mall West Lake Hanoi
Also west of West Lake is the US$600 million Lotte Mall West Lake Hanoi, which opened in September 2023.
I was there in mid November and the Christmas decorations were already up.
The mall complex also includes two hotels.
It’s too bad there isn’t a metro station planned nearby (the closest will be Line 2). The motorbike parking section highlights what a traffic apocalypse is waiting if there are more cars than bikes on the road.
Tay Ho View
On the other side of West Lake is the Quang An Peninsula, which has become a popular expat area. There are plans to redevelop the peninsula, with the Tay Ho View project leading the way. This was almost finished when I visited last year, so I was surprised to find that it was not open yet.
There were workers on site but it wasn’t a hive of activity. I haven’t found any information about why this is delayed.
Land use around the metro
I have written a separate metro report which you can find here. Here are more observations regarding land around the metro.
Wide road and narrow footpath along Nguyen Trai
Line 2A travels down the middle of a wide road, which might have been why it was selected to be built first (an above-ground railway with less land to clear). Not that this helped, as it ended up being the slowest first metro build in Asia.
I went to Thuong Dinh station and walked back to Lang station. On the main road that the metro goes along (Nguyen Trai) there are 5 or 6 lanes of traffic in each direction. Despite so much space, here is what the footpath looks like.
Even without bikes parked on the footpath it is a narrow walkway. They could reclaim a lane of traffic now that there is a metro line here. The footpath could be widened, plant some trees, make bike parking on the road, and there would still be plenty of room for road traffic.
A short-term solution would be to immediately reclaim a lane of traffic and use it for bike parking space.
Elevated railway near houses
One of the big problems that Hanoi (and HCMC) has encountered is clearing land for the metro project. I have noticed in HCMC that houses have been cut in half along Line 2 rather than demolishing the entire house. In Hanoi it looks like the bare minimum of land is acquired to build the aboveground section. Line 2A follows the path of a wide road, but this section has to cut through a built-up area to do a 90-degree turn on the line. Rather than demolish a wider path, the metro is built right next to the buildings.
Connecting the metro to surrounding buildings
As each underground station is built in the coming decades, surrounding buildings need to be connected to the metro stations and underground walkways that connect them.
36 Cat Linh is a new office building under construction near the Line 3 Cat Linh Station. The road in front of the work site has been reduced to a small lane, suggesting that the building is connected to the metro. Another site says there is a retail basement area, so I wait to see if the basement is connected to the metro station.
[36 Cat Linh and Cat Linh metro construction site.]
Tien Bo Plaza
One project I am looking forward to seeing is Tien Bo Plaza (also referred as Tien Bo City).
This project takes up a city block area in Ba Dinh District. The buildings are nine storeys-high and will include a hotel, residential, offices, a culture centre and artist studios.
There was some workers on site when I visited.
Hello Kitty World
The Hello Kitty World site occupies a prominent island of land in Tay Ho District.
The Department of Planning and Investment of Hanoi has now cancelled the construction of the project after years of delays from the investor.
There hasn’t been any updates on the Post Equipment Factory since its demolition was halted.
The building has been boarded up since my last visit. This building would be a good candidate for an adaptive reuse project like Europe does with its damaged old buildings. Keep the historic exterior and put a modern building inside it.
I happened to be in Hanoi at the start of the Hanoi Creative Design Festival 2023. As part of the festival, the century-old Hang Dau water tower was opened to the public for first time. I didn’t have time to visit, but it gladdened me to see this landmark being appreciated.
Adaptive reuse of industrial heritage is not as common in Southeast Asia, but Hanoi appears to be moving in the right direction. The festival also included an exhibition at the old Gia Lam Train Factory, which I got to visit via a special festival train from Hanoi Station.
Another bit of good conservation news is that the preservation of the Long Bien Bridge is a central piece of the Red River Zoning plan.
I went for a walk along the bridge to get some photos for another article. There is a plan to build another bridge next to the Long Bien Bridge. This would be used for the metro line that will replace the train line. That is probably years (or decades) away from happening, but I had never walked across the bridge and I wanted to savour the view without another bridge blocking it.
North Hanoi Smart City
I arrived in Hanoi on the day that the North Hanoi Smart City was launched. The project will include the tallest building in Vietnam (somewhere between 500 and 600 metres).
I saw a glimpse of the site when I was on the airport bus into the city. The project is north of the Red River, near the Nhat Tan Bridge. I was considering going out there by walking across the bridge, but the bridge is not walkable and there is nothing to see at the construction site yet.
[Nhat Tan Bridge viewed from a taxi – see you next time, Hanoi!]
For my next visit, I will have to rent a motorbike so I can cross the Nhat Tan Bridge and visit the site. There are also some big Vinhomes new urban areas that area further out and hard to get around by public transport.
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