It’s been an eventful year since the last update, so let’s get started. This is a general overview, and not an exhaustive list.
One Central HCM
One Central HCM continues to blight central HCMC with its concrete shell looming over Ben Thanh. This project has gone though multiple owners and name changes over the years, but when the base of the two towers started to rise it looked like that this project might finally become a reality.
Unfortunately One Central HCM was being developed by Viva Lnd, who are caught up in the Van Thinh Phat scandal that is still unfolding. In October 2022 the chairwoman of Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group (VTP) was arrested over suspected financial fraud.
Any development related to VTP was stopped until investigators untangled their holdings. VTP are based in Ho Chi Minh City, and they are well known for owning many of the most prime blocks of real estate in the city. I haven’t found a definitive list, and the news reports are just as confusing.
After chairwoman Truong My Lan was arrested in October 2022, HCMC police said they were clarifying the origins of 156 buildings linked to VTP. By October 2023 the police said there was 762 companies affiliated with Van Thinh Phat.
I have been bookmarking news about VTP, and I will have to make a fact sheet to keep track of the time line. This article from 2017 mentions that the group has a slew of companies with complex cross-ownership.
Bitexco Group was the original developer, and and they have taken over the project again under the company name of Saigon Glory (wholly owned by Bitexco Group). The company reported a loss for 2022.
IFC One Saigon
Looking back at last year’s construction report about IFC One Saigon, I can only laugh now. This tower had been a “ghost tower” for over a decade, so it was amazing to see that this building was looking like being finished. There was a feeling of optimism in the air in mid 2022, with the country having reopened to international travel and two high-profile construction projects finding a new developer.
IFC One Saigon was also acquired by Viva Land, so copy and paste what I wrote above for this development.
The Viva Land website is now offline (here is the archive) and there is no sign of when this will be resolved.
Ben Thanh and Le Loi
Work on the Ben Thanh Metro Station was mostly completed, so the land above the station was restored to the public. here is an image of what was envisaged for the land in front of Ben Thanh Market.
There is now acres of asphalt in front of the concrete shell of One Central HCM with a traffic intersection in the middle, and no planted trees.
Here is an aerial view of the market area.
[Photo via VnExpress.]
The area has since been remodelled with barriers to guide the traffic intersection, and some potted trees have been placed in front of the market.
If you look at the first image, it shows 3 round structures that are part of the metro. Another older image shows the round section in front of the market being a portal to the metro.
There is currently only one round building, which is a decorative skylight for the underground plaza and not an entrance.
There is a small entrance to the metro next to the market, but no large entrance in front of the market. It was noted that the station lacks emergency exits because one of the exits is in the One HCM Central project.
There is now talk of landscaping the area in front of Ben Thanh and Le Loi Street. Le Loi was also meant to be landscaped but it was paved over without any landscaping. Here is a new image of what a landscaped Ben Thanh/Le Loi area might look like.
[Photo by District 1 People’s Committee.]
In addition to the landscaping, there is also talk of the historic Ben Thnah Market getting a renovation.
The Grand Manhattan Novaland
The Grand Manhattan is a big apartment project in a relatively undeveloped area of District 1, and it appears that work has stopped again.
Novaland’s biggest problems are outside HCMC, such as the Novaworld Phan Thiet project.
The Grand Sentosa Novaland
[The proposed The Grand Sentosa Novaland.]
Now that Novaland has its own problems, the project has once again ground to a halt.
[The stalled Grand Sentosa Novaland project.]
Thu Thiem New Urban Area
The Thu Thiem New Urban Area continues to plod along, but there has at least been some progress that hints at what is to come.
A much-needed mall has opened at the base of the SOFIC Tower (the tower at the geographic centre of Thu Thiem). They installed a giant robot at the entrance, which has become a landmark of the area.
The Thiso Mall includes local brands such as 4Ps Pizza and L’Usine Cafe. These F&B brands are creating a strong presence in Vietnam, which is refreshing to a see a mall with local businesses.
The mall has Emart from South Korea in the basement, which has always been busy when I visited. There are no supermarkets in this area so this is not a surprise. This supermarket appears to be drawing in customers who are staying food and drinks. I don’t know how the other retailers are faring.
Speaking of South Korea, there has been no word on the Thu Thiem Eco Smart City by Lotte. The land is now turning into a lake.
[Thu Thiem Eco Smart City.]
Another frustrating delay has been at the Empire City project. The main tower by Büro Ole Scheeren will be an architectural highlight of the city, so I am eager to see this not relegated to the Never Built page. I’ve heard varying reports about this, including land title issues (which is a problem that has plagued Thu Thiem). There was also talk that the tower was going to be increased in height.
[The site of the future Empire Tower.]
The most progress has been made at the Metropole project around the Ba Son Bridge. There are now finished apartments in one section, and some shops have opened up.
Here is what it is meant to look like when it’s finished.
Next to the Metropole is the stalled Ho Chi Minh City Planning Exhibition Center project.
It has been reported that construction will restart in early 2024. It was also reported that work will restart in July this year, so it is best to not believe it until you see construction workers on the site.
[The unfinished Ho Chi Minh City Planning Exhibition Center.]
I often go for walks round Thu Thiem to get a feel for what is going on. The area continues to frustrate with small details such as trash. There is a lot of fly-tipping here, and people just throw their rubbish on the side of the road. There is a lot of talk about banning plastic, but what needs to be banned is people throwing rubbish.
Another problem is just general maintenance of the footpaths while the surrounding land remains undeveloped. If there were teams keeping the grassland under control, it might be a deterrant to those dumping rubbish in the tall grass.
Grand Marina Saigon
Grand Marina Saigon is the largest project under construction in District 1. This multi-tower project will host JW Marriott & Marriott branded residences. I am watching how this fares as there an abundance of luxury apartments in the city.
Grand Marina Saigon is next to the completed Vinhomes Golden River. All of the buildings along this prime District 1 riverfront are boxy blue towers.
Out of all of the buildings that are currently under construction, Sun Tower is the one I am most looking forward to seeing. I am interested in this building as it is a single tower with a distinct architectural feature. The top section has layered plates that stick out from the tower, breaking up the monotony of boxy office towers.
The tower is near the Ba Son Bridge, which is an architectural marvel in itself. You can get a good view of the riverfront construction area from the Ba Son Bridge. Sun Tower is the first building on the left. The other buildings under construction is the Grand Marina project, and the completed buildings to the right are Vinhomes Golden River.
The blue box trend continues with The Nexus. The project has had years of delays, so it’s surprising to see it almost finished.
[Lotte Hotel and the two towers of The Nexus.]
A third tower behind Le Méridien Hotel is now underway.
[Nexus construction behind Le Méridien Hotel.]
The Okura Prestige Saigon
The Okura Prestige Saigon project is on one of the most valuable corners in Ho Chi Minh City, and this empty block has been an eyesore for years. There was a report in Nikkei Asia late last year about how Hotel Okura are going to expand in Southeast Asia. The headline got my hopes up, but there was no mention of Ho Chi Minh City. The website has been updated from “opening in 2023 or later” to “opening in 2026 or later“.
Notre Dame renovation
Renovation work on the Notre Dame began in 2017 and it was supposed to be finished by 2020.
The most recent update estimates that the renovation will be completed in 2027.
Assorted delayed projects
Techcombank Saigon Tower
When I saw the finished Techcombank Saigon Tower it struck me what what a remarkable building this is in a city that is awash with bland boxy blue glass towers. This building is by Foster + Partners, so it pays to pay for a starchitect to design your building.
Nguyen Cu Trinh Centre
The Nguyen Cu Trinh Centre was a plan to raze most of Nguyen Cu Trinh ward and turn it into a mini-city.
After being unable to clear the area, the government has given up on the plan.
I usually post a separate annual metro report, but this year I’m going to place it here. There is not enough news to warrant a separate report. Line 1 has been delayed again, Line 2 still hasn’t started construction, and there has been no meaningful progress for any other line. There is also a plan for a light rail from Thu Thiem to the new airport, but details are few and far between.
The planning minister said that HCMC’s metro system will take 100 years without changes to the existing policy. Considering that Line 1 has taken over 10 years and counting, that is not an unreasonable thing to say.
At this point, there should be three metro lines under construction at any one time for the next 20 years. For example, Bangkok (at the time of publication) is building the Orange Line, Purple Line extension, Pink Line Monorail, in addition to land clearance for the 3-airports high-speed railway. Other metro lines are in planning to be implemented when the current projects are finished.
On a related note, I started a new website about the HCMC Metro at hochiminhcitymetro.com. My initial plan was to create an information site for the stations of Line 1. I will set it up fully when I can visit the stations after it opens.
After I set it up I wondered what a metro website would look like if every proposed line was shown. The website has list of all the proposed lines on the navigation bar. It doesn’t hurt to dream.
I will the next metro report when Line 1 opens, hopefully in July 2024.
Airports have also been a drama for HCMC, but August 31 of 2023 might be a turning point.
After years of delays, work began on Terminal T3 of Tan Son Nhat International Airport on August 31.
Long Thanh International Airport is technically in Dong Nai Province, though it’s the second airport for HCMC in the Greater HCMC area. This project has been a procession of delays, which I have been keeping track of on the Long Thanh International Airport page. Work on the passenger terminal started on August 31.
Saigon Centre Phase 3
[Saigon Centre Phase 3 (right tower).]
The expansion of Saigon Centre has been proposed for years, and this year some new signage was added to the project area.
Saigon Centre has turned out to be the most successful modern shopping centre in the inner city area, with Takashimaya from Japan being the anchor tenant in the shopping complex. It’s a relatively small shopping centre though, so they would easily fill the shops in an expanded mall.
Future developments along the metro
Something to look out for over the next few years will be new developments along Line 1 of the metro. Here was a proposal for near Tan Cang Station in Binh Thanh District.
In a first for HCMC, I saw a billboard for The 9 Stellars advertising itself as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD). This project is near the end of Line 1.
[Image via The 9 Stellars.]
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