2018 was a mixed bag for development in Saigon. On the one hand, the Vinhomes Central Park project was completed, with Landmark 81 becoming the tallest tower in Vietnam. At 461.5 metres it claimed the title of being the tallest building in Southeast Asia, overtaking the Petronas Twin Towers by 9.5 metres. It was also the second-tallest tower completed in 2018.
With that behind us, here is a look at the state of construction and infrastructure in Ho Chi Minh City and what’s in store for 2019.
Projects to watch
In 2018 the city announced that it will pause new high-rise developments in District 1 and 3. It’s a decision that makes sense as there are already many sites that are abandoned that need to be sorted out. With the focus outside of downtown Saigon here are some notable projects to watch.
Lotte Eco Smart City, District 2
The Eco Smart City development is on one of the prime riverfront sites of Thu Thiem. The Korean conglomerate Lotte Corporation has been making announcements for the last few years that the project is about to begin, yet it still remains a stalled project.
The Thu Thiem new urban area has been tangled in drama that has delayed some of these projects. In addition to the title maps going missing, the historic Thu Thiem church is not giving up their riverfront property. While researching this story I found another article from 2009 about the sisters of Thu Thiem not giving up their church. Indeed, reading the news about Thu Thiem feels like Groundhogs Day, where the same news is presented every year. If this review in 2029 features the sisters of Thu Thiem I would not be surprised.
I think they should keep the church as there is little else of historic note on that site. And if nothing else the church has made an effort to blend in at night with its cyberpunk neon aesthetic.
The most recent announcement in late 2018 mentions a groundbreaking ceremony in 2019, but I won’t believe it until earth-moving equipment starts breaking ground. Lotte have said that it will include “an iconic tower”, so lets hope it’s architecturally more interesting than Lotte Center Hanoi.
Empire City, District 2
Empire City by Büro Ole Scheeren will feature three towers, including the Empire 88 Tower. At a height of 333 meters, its 88 floors will include apartments, a hotel, and a public observation deck.
Büro Ole Scheeren built the Mahanakhon Tower in Bangkok, which has gone on to get attention from around the world with its unusual design. I think the Empire City tower is even better looking, and the new urban area needs landmark buildings near the riverfront.
With so many buildings filed under never built, I worry that this one might be too good to be true.
More details on the Empire City page.
Saigon Port Riverfront Redevelopment, District 4
The riverfront edge of District 4 has been slated for redevelopment for years, and in 2018 sections of the port were boarded up and demolished.
Nothing official has been announced yet, though there have been some renders floating around of what it might look like. There will also be a new bridge here that will connect District 4 to District 2.
Dragon Riverside City, District 5
In District 5 the Dragon Riverside City development is well underway, so expect to see the signature tower becoming a prominent landmark to the west of downtown Saigon.
Eco Green Saigon, District 7
In District 7 the Eco Green Saigon project is currently under construction. So far it looks like just another big apartment development that is common in D7. In the latter half of 2018 they announced that it will include a 60-story tower featuring the Grand Hyatt Hotel. There is no mention of height, but that would put it at about the same height as the Bitexco Tower (264 metres).
It’s located at the entrance to District 7 after you cross the bridge from District 4, so it would act as a gateway to D7. If you look at the D4 riverfront image, it would be on the first main road above that. In that context it would make sense to have a hotel there, bookending a future riverfront redevelopment.
Kenton Node, Nha Be District
In 2018 one of the biggest stalled projects reawoke from its slumber. The Kenton Node project is in Nha Bhe District (south of District 7 for those of you who don’t venture beyond D1). The project features a cluster of apartment towers and a riverfront restaurant/entertainment area. The centrepiece tower will be home to the Mövenpick Hotel Ho Chi Minh City. While it may seem like miles away, it’s positioned next to a future station of the proposed Line 4 metro, giving it a direct route to Ben Thanh Station.
Throughout Ho Chi Minh City there are miles of dead canals filled with black sludge that is used as rubbish dumps. Cleaning up these canals will be a massive undertaking, as residents that have informal housing on the canals need to be relocated. This has been years in the planning as well, and clearance has begun in District 5 and Binh Thanh District.
Will the Saigon One saga be resolved?
Another year has gone by and Saigon One still remains as an unfinished eyesore on the skyline. Even at the abandoned Bitexco Spirit of Saigon site they have airbrushed the tower from existence. Drone operators filming aerial shots of the city don’t have the same luxury.
The property was seized in 2017, and in 2018 it was to be auctioned off. So far buyers have balked at the initial listed price of US$306.9 million. There were rumors that the property had been bought, but it still remains unsold. Will 2019 be the year that the project finds a new owner?
Heritage conservation still remains an issue, but there was a glimmer of good news at the end of 2018. The city has allocated more than VNĐ700 billion (US$29.98 million) for renovation and preservation of cultural heritage sites and buildings.
There has been a reoccurring plan to extend the historic city hall with a new administrative building behind it
[Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee building extension]
It was reported that a historic colonial-era building would have been knocked to to make way for it, but now appears that the plan is on hold.
[The threatened heritage building behind the HCMC City Hall.]
Meanwhile there has been a compromise with the Customs Directorate building, which was considered for demolition.
Instead, the building behind it has been demolished, and a tower will be built there to house the customs house extension.
My watch list for most threatened buildings for 2019 is the warehouses of the District 4 Saigon Port. There are a number of historic warehouses in this strip, so let’s hope that there is a plan to incorporate them into the development (unlike what happened at Ba Son).
Developer to watch – Alpha King
In 2018 Alpha King entered the market with the slogan “transform the city skyline”. They began by restarting two long-stalled projects as well as taking over the Vinhomes Golden River development (now known as Centennial).
[Alpha Town (left), Alpha City (centre) in relation to the Pullman Hotel (right).]
Having swiftly recommenced old projects, their name has been connected to other big sites around the city (the so-called “golden land” sites). They have some new projects coming up, so expect more announcements in 2019.
The Metro – a critical year ahead
When construction for line 1 broke ground in 2012 it was expected to be completed by 2017. The metro project entered 2018 already behind schedule, and the year got progressively worse.
The completion date was pushed back to the end of 2020, and by the end of the year it was conceded that it will probably be later. Meanwhile the cost has been steadily increasing, and contractors have had their payments delayed.
By the end of the year it was revealed that 50 personnel have quit the management board.
By now there should have been three lines simultaneously under construction. Line 2 briefly began construction in 2015 before being put on hold until 2020. In 2017 Line 3A (which is the western extension of Line 1) was ready to commence construction with the plan to be completed by 2026. Line 1/3A and Line 2 will interchange at the under construction Ben Thanh Market Station.
A new bridge
[Thu Thiem 2 Bridge]
New bridges are planned to connect District 1, District 4, and District 7 to District 2, in addition to a pedestrian bridge between D1 and D2. After many delays construction of the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge connecting D1 and D2 got under way, beginning with the clearance of the old trees on Tun Duc Thang.
At the start of 2019, the podium for the single pylon is now visible in the Saigon River.
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