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Saigon's Old Villas Fall to Demolition Epidemic

Due to the delay in creating a classification system for old mansions in Saigon, the city’s many old buildings are being knocked down at an alarming rate.

The Architecture Research Center of Ho Chi Minh City believes that half of the southern hub’s colonial villas are already part of the past while the remaining 650 are in limbo, reports VnExpress.

Last June, one of Saigon’s oldest mansions, located on Binh Thanh District's No Trang Long Street, almost met its demise as the owner began demolishing the house to make room for a brand-new structure. When confronted about the demolition, the villa owner pointed to not only the extremely high cost of maintaining the building but also the long and tedious process of assessing the house’s historical classification.

Although local officials halted the destruction, the centenarian villa was already in bits and pieces.

This rush for redevelopment is not unique to Binh Thanh. Rather, it is a citywide epidemic, as old buildings have fallen left and right in the span of just a few years. Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street in District 3 used to be home to some 53 villas, while there were about 40 more on Hai Ba Trung Street. Those numbers now stand at just 24 and 20, respectively.

Recently, the Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Development Studies put forth a draft decree detailing a system of classification for old villas that are earmarked to be preserved. According to Hoang Minh Tri, the institute’s deputy director, the city has required since 1996 that all construction projects on old buildings must be reviewed by the municipal People’s Committee. 

“At the moment, the lack of a set of criteria to classify old mansions is too late compared with the city’s growth rate,” he told the news source.

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