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City to get new outlying commerce hub   2008-07-20 - VNS

Construction progresses on Thu Thiem trench in Nhon Trach District, in the southern province of Dong Nai. The new $20 billion Thu Thiem urban area will develop the peninsula into a financial and service hub of HCM City.

 A mammoth project to cost US$20 billion will develop the Thu Thiem peninsula into a new urban area across the Sai Gon River as a future commercial, service and financial hub of HCM City.

Unlike other similar urban models such as District 7’s Phu My Hung, the Thu Thiem new urban area will not be developed into a purely residential area, said Nguyen Le Dung, deputy head of Thu Thiem New Urban Area Authority responsible for the project’s investment and construction.

He said the multi-purpose project, launched in 2002, will turn the underdeveloped area now overgrown with plants into a state-of-the-art urban centre.

The planned urban area is located about 300m away from downtown to the east of Sai Gon River.

As an extension to the current city centre, the Thu Thiem new urban area will accommodate the expected increase in the city’s population and would add much-needed public works, such as squares, convention centres and multi-functional recreational centres, among others.

City authorities have envisaged Thu Thiem as "a strategic project that will boost the city’ s overall socio-economic development and bring HCM City on a par with a modern international metropolis in the 21st century."

Once complete by 2015, the urban area will also serve as a link to satellite urban areas between downtown HCM City and surburban districts of Hoc Mon and Cu Chi as well as neighbouring provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Duong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Dung said.

It will be bustling with diverse activities ranging from commerce, finance, and offices to housing, culture, education, sport and entertainment, and scientific research.

A total 657ha of land and 123ha of water surface have been earmarked for the Thu Thiem new urban area, comprising the entire An Khanh, Thu Thiem and An Loi Dong wards, and part of Binh An and Binh Khanh wards in District 2.

It is designed to accommodate a population of 130,000- 350,000 labourers and around one million visitors a day.

For the project to stay on schedule, more than 12,000 households are being relocated to either within or outside the proposed Thu Thiem new urban site.

"At first I could not believe such a swampy and waterlogged area can become an international standard urban area," Nguyen Thanh, a retired teacher who lives on District 2' s Luong Dinh Cua Street, said.

"But with construction of Thu Thiem Bridge in the first phase finished and of East-West Highway already underway, I believe it will not belong until Thu Thiem is turned into a new urban area," he added.

Site clearance is already halfway completed and the city government has ordered local authorities in District 2 to complete compensation by the year – end.

Figures show that as of the second quarter this year, the city budget has spent VND4.7 trillion ($293.8 million) on compensation and construction of housing for displaced residents.

The skinny on Thu Thiem

The Thu Thiem new urban area will be divided into five complexes, including the central nucleus, the northern residential area, the eastern residential area, the multi-functional area along the East-West Highway and the southern water-submerged area.
International trade and financial centres as well as office buildings, hotels, residential quarters, squares, convention center will be located in downtown Thu Thiem.
Coming around are northern and eastern residential areas where multi-storey buildings will be built as will inner-town canals and parks to create green spaces.
A central museum will come up within a lakeside park in the multifunctional East-West complex, along with waterlogged forestry park, which is expected to provide a unique sight for dwellers.
Water-logged area in the south will be devoted to a 130ha specific forest park and three resorts at a height of from one to two stories.

However, delays in reclaiming land have led to a lack of resettlement housing for those displaced by the project, which has taken an additional VND250 billion ($15.6 million) from the city budget to cover temporary lodging.

Le Trong Sang, chairman of People’s Committee of District 2, where the Thu Thiem project is located, blamed the delay since 2002 on the time needed to compensate displaced residents and reclaim land, which has failed to keep up with price upheavals.

He added that repeated changes in policies were also to blame, creating a diversity of opinions among the public.

Investor interests

Dozens of investors, both domestic and foreign, have so far shown interest in the Thu Thiem new urban area project, Dung said, adding that priorities would be creating jobs for "the knowledge economy" and for the high-grade services industry.

The fields include banking, insurance, stock market, investment and financial services, transport, tourism and hi-tech.

"The priorities aim to accelerate growth in the city’ s gross domestic product and contribute to the restructuring of the economy in which the service sector will hold a large density."

The city aims by 2010 to develop main infrastructure, such as transport, a water and power supply network, waste water treatment system and communication.

Typical public landmarks, including a central square, riverside park, lake, convention centre, museum, multi-purpose recreational center, observatory tower, and forestry park will also be built.

Dung said construction was expected to start this month on two software park projects, one worth $610.3 million by wholly Japan-owned Viet Nam-Japan Human Resource Development Joint Stock Co. and another capitalised at $1.2 billion by Taiwan’ s Teco group.

Both projects have already been approved by the city’ s People’ s Committee and are expected to build up the city’ s contingent of IT experts and create jobs for thousands of engineers, advanced programmers and indirect labourers.

"Software park projects will play a vital role in improving the growth rate and making HCM City an IT metro in the region and worldwide," Dung said.

Other projects are a residential and office building complex, covering an area of 4ha and to be carried out in the third quarter this year by South Korea’ s GS E&C group.

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