HCMC new zoning minimizes relocation of locals: official

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A view of downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The southern economic hub is expected to improve the look of its center by 2020 under a new zoning plan released by the city planners last week. 

A detailed plan to renovate Ho Chi Minh City's center by the Department of Zoning and Architecture will give the city a makeover with a minimum of inconvenience to local residents, a city official said.

Nguyen Trong Hoa, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Institute of Development Studies and one of the plan's authors, said city planners have done their best to limit the number of residents who will be displaced and that new homes will be available for those who have to be relocated.

"It should not cause any disorder," Hoa was quoted by Sai Gon Tiep Thi (Saigon Marketing) newspaper as saying.

"The plan does not call for "˜development at all costs,' but harmonizes the demand for culture, education, healthcare, etc."

He said city planners had previously been "too hasty" in their submission of grand plans the city was unable to afford.

"Together with inharmonic implementation, many residents were evicted from their homes before there were new ones for them to move into," he said.

According to the plan, the city center will be replete with pedestrian exclusive streets, an underground street and more buildings along the Saigon River.

The 1/2,000-scale map divides the 930-hectare area into five sections with specific functions, according to the plan, released on May 9.

The first section is the center's core area of 92.3 hectares (228 acres) surrounded by Ton Duc Thang, Le Lai, Le Thanh Ton, Pham Ngu Lao and Ham Nghi streets.

In this section, there will be several pedestrian only streets, including those in front of Ben Thanh Market. The nearby Le Loi and Nguyen Hue streets will be a shopping area where only public transport is allowed.

The second section, measuring 212 hectares, is surrounded by the Thi Nghe Canal and the streets of Hoang Sa, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Cong Quynh, Le Lai and Le Thanh Ton. This section will feature parks, schools, cultural monuments, hospitals and administrative buildings.

In the third section of 274 hectares covering parts of District 1, 4 and Binh Thanh, there will be parks along the Saigon River as well as skyscrapers.

The fourth section, overlapping parts of districts 1 and 3 on an area of 232 hectares, will retain old buildings in the colonial French style. New buildings are allowed, but not skyscrapers.

The fifth section of 117 hectares comprising parts of districts 1 and 4 will be a center for office and commercial skyscrapers near the Ben Thanh Bus Station and along Ham Nghi and Nguyen Thai Hoc streets.

The five sections will be home to 273,000 residents by 2020 and residency in the area will be controlled. Those displaced by new projects will be resettled within the area.

Ho Quang Toan, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Zoning and Architecture, said the zoning plan will make significant changes to the city's image.

There will be new express bus routes connecting District 1's Ben Thanh terminal and District 4 as well as a train along the Saigon River, he said.

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