Ho Chi Minh City’s neglected Thuan Kieu Plaza to get facelift, 20 yrs on

A 100,000 square meter complex that hosts three multistory apartment buildings in Ho Chi Minh City is set for a revamp, after being neglected for years, the facility’s new owner has said

People walk past Thuan Kieu Plaza in Ho Chi Minh City.

The 20-year-old Thuan Kieu Plaza, located on Hong Bang Street in District 5, will be upgraded and repaired to “better meet demand of the local community,” Ho Xuan Dung, deputy general director of An Dong Investment Corp., told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Thuan Kieu Plaza was developed by a joint venture between a Vietnamese and Hong Kong firm in 1994, before being transferred to the new owner, An Dong Corp., last year.

Dung admitted that after 20 years, many sections of the complex have deteriorated and are in dire need of a revamp.

It will never be demolished, Dung asserted, referring to speculation that the complex, which consists of three 33-story buildings with mixed functions, from apartments and trade centers to restaurants and recreation zones, would be destroyed.

“We are still preparing the overhaul solutions but the constructions certainly will not be demolished,” he said.

The joint venture between Saigon 5 Co., a subsidiary of the Saigon Real Estate Corporation, and Hong Kong’s Kings Harmony Intl Ltd broke ground on Thuan Kieu Plaza in 1994 and completed construction in 1998, at a total cost of US$55.38 million.

The complex, which links the Cho Lon area with the city’s downtown, was hoped to boost economic development in District 5, home to a huge population of Chinese Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City.

But the former developer would fail to achieve their ambition as Thuan Kieu Plaza struggled to find buyers for its 650 apartments and customers for a 20,000 square meter commercial venue for lease.

Tower A and Tower B of the complex are now totally unoccupied, and there are only a few apartment owners in the remaining tower.

The restaurants and other services in the plaza have all moved out as of the middle of this month, according to nearby residents.

The Saigon 5 - Kings Harmony consortium was only contracted to operate the complex for 20 years beginning in 1994, and eventually sold the project to An Dong Corp. after the contract expired last year.

Dung is upbeat that Thuan Kieu Plaza will “surely become more beautiful and better serve the community in the future,” he told Tuoi Tre.

Expectations went wrong

The neglected Thuan Kieu Plaza has long been a subject of speculation amongst residents of District 5, frustrated to see such a giant, costly construction gathering dust for such a long time.

But local architects have their own explanation.

“The forecasts, expectations and ambitions of the [former] owner just were not based on reality,” said architect Luu Trong Hai, who was on the consultant panel for the construction of the plaza back in the 1990s.

Hai said Thuan Kieu Plaza was constructed in anticipation of a wave of immigrants from Hong Kong, when the territory was returned by the UK to China in 1997.

“It was expected that more Hong Kong people would move to Vietnam, so the apartments were designed in a Hong Kong style, with many small rooms that make them look like bird nests,” the architect said.

But the immigration wave never happened, and Thuan Kieu Plaza was “unable to find apartment buyers five to six years after inauguration.”

“Only a few District 5 residents bought apartments there, as most people do not like Hong Kong-style flats,” Hai said.

“This is why the expectations of the developer were wrong.”

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