Vinhomes is changing Saigon forever, of that there is no doubt. Ho Chi Minh City is probably the fastest growing city in Asia, and like it or not, these changes will alter the way of life here. It is easy to criticise the expansion and easy to balk at the new build. Condo blocks are going up at an incredible speed. In the three years that I have lived here, the journey from District 2 into the city centre has changed beyond recognition. The Sala development on the South Side of Vo Van Kiet is all but finished and they are now starting on the north side. Other companies are also engaged in construction throughout the whole area of Thu Thiem. I have heard many say, that it cannot continue, but it can and it will.
Growth can be a good thing, but it has to be managed. If the infrastructure doesn’t grow at the same speed and in a managed way, then chaos will ensue. In some ways that is already happening with the move from motorbikes to motor cars seen as the favoured way of demonstrating to ones neighbours that you have joined the middle class. Roads are getting choked and so is the population as the smog continues to worsen. The government expects and intends the population to rise to 14 million by the year 2025, with some forecasts for 2050 going as high as 30 million.
It might not necessarily be the general consensus, but Vinhomes might just actually help with the problem of pollution. They have new housing and retail developments coming to District 1, Binh Thanh, District 2 and District 4. Hopefully with thousands of middle class people moving into D1 and its surrounds, plus the eventual arrival of the metro, there will be less traffic travelling in and out of the city in the rush hours, than there would be otherwise. Vinhomes Golden River will have its own Metro station within the complex. The Ben Thanh - Suoi Tien Metro route runs underneath the complex with the Ba Son Station being directly under the central square. Meanwhile the Landmark 81 tower at the heart of Central Park will only be about 300-400 metres from a station. Vinhomes have their critics, of that there is no doubt, but what exactly are they building? For up to date information you may wish to check out the facebook page Vinhomes Insider.
We have all seen the cranes rising above Vinhomes Central Park development in Binh Thanh. This used to be the Tan Canh Port. It was a huge container yard and was also partly used by the military. This is a massive multi-billion dollar - 18 tower construction that will include 17 condo towers, an Estate of 88 luxoury villas and gardens, the Vinmec International Hospital (already open), Vinschool* delivering a quality education from kindergarten to Year 12 and the Landmark 81 Tower, at 461.2 metres (1516 feet) the tallest building, not just in Vietnam, but in the whole of Southeast Asia. Vinhomes chose the name Central Park with more than a passing nod in the direction of Central Park New York. The development includes a 14 hectare (35 acre) parkland that has a 1.1 kilometre riverfront walkway.
*There is not yet an English website for Vinschool, their Vietnamese one can be found here
Sales have been healthy right from the get go as investors and future residents snap up apartments on this site, right on the edge of District 1. An impressive 82% of the near 10,000 residential units were sold by the end of 2015. Even their best forecasts were completely outstripped by the reality of selling so much property within 14 months of their November 2014 launch. Off plan selling prices range from $1800 to $3200 net per square metre.
Sales figures, actual:
* source: Vingroup Investor Presentation January 2016.
Vinhomes’ byline is ‘Strength in Unity’, it is their aim to keep this flowing through the entire ethos of the company. The idea is to build townships with community spirit. Vinhomes cite this as the biggest thing that separates them from other developers. It is what was behind the design of the Landmark 81 Tower, which is designed as a clump of bamboo, the individual towers representing individual stalks of bamboo, but growing together in unity with strength.
Vinhomes Golden River broke ground earlier this year on the site of the old Ba Son Shipyard, on the riverfront in District 1 itself. This is another huge development; The 25 hectare (62 acre) site will contain 13 towers with approximately 3000 luxury apartments, shops, 63 villas and another riverfront walkway. There is even a Museum dedicated to the history of the site. Again investors are seeing this as a golden opportunity (excuse the pun). April 10th saw the release of the first two towers for sale. Since then a further two have been added and already an estimated 70% of these four towers have been sold. These four buildings sold at between $3700 and $5200 net per square metre. On July 3rd two more buildings will be released at a 5% - 7% increase. Vinhomes increase the price of each building release by roughly this amount. This has had no adverse effect on sales whatsoever. With net selling prices ranging from $1800 to $5500 per square metre, Vinhomes is the only developer offering Riverfront properties within this price range.
Just over the Khanh Hoi Bridge another Vinhomes development is planned, running along 1.6 kilometres of District 4’s Riverfront, whilst directly opposite, on the other side of the Saigon River, their District 2 development will occupy the riverfront there as well. At the time of writing, there has been no information released about these two developments.
So whether you are for or against this type of rapid change, this is happening and it will be interesting to see where we are in five years. Personally I have mixed feelings. I love Saigon and I hope all that I love about it, doesn’t get lost. I am not against glass towers and condo blocks per se, but having seen both really beautiful and truly awful modern design in my hometown, Manchester, England, I realise that it can go either way.
I can understand the critics who think that Ba Son Shipyard could have been developed in a different way. As one person said to me, the Meatpacking District of Manhattan is a great example. The fact is though, that this just wouldn’t have happened, so given the choice of what it was and what it will be, I’m ok with the development. Tan Canh Port was another eyesore and whilst some north-facing residents in the Saigon Pearl complex who have lost their view might be disappointed, I’m sure many more will see it as an improvement. The riverfront in this city has always been a disappointment to me. It has never been pretty on either bank, I think in the future; many people will get pleasure in walking along as they do in many other cities. It is thought that there will be a continuous walkway from the start of Golden River to the end of Central Park.
I strongly hope that the city centre can keep its identity, but I do fear for some things. As traffic builds governments have the habit of simply building and widening roads. This never really solves anything and I can see the destruction of a lot of the greenery that I love so much in Ho Chi Minh City, if they are not careful.
It will be interesting to see what residents of this fabulous city think. I suspect views will be mixed, but I think Ho Chi Minh City will certainly raise its status within the region.