Well the haters had their say and the supporters argued back. But I have to say that I think Nguyen Hué in the centre of D1 is a resounding success. I think the planners have got it so right, and the locals certainly agree; it’s crowded every evening as people come out to wander up and down their new space and exchange pleasantries with their neighbours. Every major city in my book needs open spaces and this one is huge.
I especially like the view from the Riverfront looking all the way up to the Peoples’ Committee Building at the top. It is an extraordinary space that has been created. Plenty of trees have been planted to keep the greenery going and as they take root and grow, they will provide much needed shade and breath to the city centre.
In my view, the space couldn’t have been used better and I think when Le Loi opens up again after the underground station development is finished it will look even better. This is, by any stretch of the imagination, a huge area. When I first arrived in the City, it didn’t have the look of an open space at all, merely just another road. Now it is clearly the central focal point of the city. The road now has underground toilet facilities and decorative fountains that the locals just love.
On a recent visit to my hometown Manchester, everyone was complaining that since the horrendous conversion of Piccadilly Gardens the city simply does not have a large open space to act as a focal point. This is exactly what has been achieved in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. One of the many complaints that I heard before this work was finished was that nobody would ever use it. I guess the city planners know their residents better than the expats, Nguyen Hué has been packed every night, since I returned.
It has retained some of what it originally was, with the gardens at the north end still firmly in place. The roads that ran up and down the sides are still in place, but with having them tiled and available for closure at the drop of a hat, they have achieved much.
The one criticism that does hold some water is that it will be too hot in the height of the day. This is to some extent true, but as the trees grow it will become less so. Old trees need to be checked, the recent horrific storms in Hanoi demonstrated that perfectly with more than 1,000 toppling over and causing immense damage and two deaths. Mind you the fact that some of the toppled trees were newly planted ones that had been planted with the nylon wrapping still covering the root balls didn’t help. Hopefully here in Saigon the planting has been done correctly. These new trees will last for many years here and in a decade or so, this will be a truly spectacular city centre square.