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City Authorities Agree to Save Elements of Saigon’s Tax Center

While there’s no saving the Tax Center which will soon be demolished to make way for a new 40-story tower, elements of the 90-year-old building will be preserved, according to city officials.

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Earlier this week, the Ho Chi Minh City mayor's office approved a proposal by the city's Architecture Department which calls for of the preservation of the main lobby, the grand staircase and bronze railings as well as the tiled lobby mosaic,” reports Thanh Nien.

The Tax Center's grand staircase.

A detailed view of the Tax Center's lobby mosaic.

In addition, the developer will work with the Ministry of Culture and Sports to incorporate elements of the historic building’s façade such as its ornate overhangs and “other parts of the building that would increase its architectural value.”

When plans to demolish the Tax Center were made public earlier this year, 2 petitions began to circulate, one led by Phung Anh Tuan, the honorary Finnish consul general in HCMC which received signatures from more than 300 architects, researchers, and students. The other, an online petition, collected over 3,500 signatures.

The current building, originally named the Grands Magasins Charner, opened in 1924 and quickly became “the place to shop in Saigon,” according to Saigon historian Tim Doling who provides an excellent historical account of the building’s history on his blog, Historic Vietnam.

According to Doling’s piece, “The 1937 Guide touristique général de l’Indochine described the Grands Magasins as ‘the best stocked store in Indochina, with the widest choice, incomparable price and all of the facilities one would find in a Paris department store.’ ”

Hopefully, this signals the beginning of a broader appreciation for the historical value of Saigon’s old buildings on the part of city authorities.

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