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HCMC plans underground shopping complex near iconic market

HCMC plans underground shopping complex near iconic market
Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress

Vietnam’s central government has agreed in principle with Ho Chi Minh City's proposal to construct an underground shopping complex near the iconic Ben Thanh Market.

The complex will be located next to Ben Thanh Central underground station, part of the city’s upcoming 20-kilometer metro line number 1, Ben Thanh – Suoi Tien.

The city authorities are examining the option to use official development assistance (ODA) loans to finance the project. 

Japan International Cooperation Agency estimates the project will cost VND8.4 trillion ($365 million), with 60 percent financed by Japan's ODA loans and the rest by Japanese investors under a public private partnership. 

The prime minister will have the final say on the project following consultations with ministries of planning and investment, construction and finance. 

In May this year, the municipal authorities proposed to the central government to allow a consortium of Japanese firms led by Toshin Development to invest in the project.

The underground project will be built on an area of 45,000 square meters, spanning from the Ben Thanh Central Station to the city’s Opera House.

The construction of the metro line and its components has led some to worry about the future of the city's iconic sites.

"We already knew they were planning to build an underground shopping complex," Irish historian and researcher Tim Doling told VnExpress International. "It would be good to hear assurances from the authorities that the iconic 1914 market and surrounding shop houses will be preserved intact and not damaged or destroyed during the building of the new complex." 

In 2014, the authorities moved a statue and a bust located at a roundabout near Ben Thanh Market to make way for the metro line. The statue and the bust, however, will be returned to their original place when the line is complete.

The statue commemorates General Tran Nguyen Han (unknown-1429) who helped Emperor Le Loi repel three Mongol invasions and establish the Le Dynasty (1428-1788). It was built by the government of the Southern Republic during the Vietnam War (1954-1975).

Below the general's statue sits the bust of Quach Thi Trang built in 1964, which was also relocated. Trang was a student killed in 1963 during a demonstration against the government of the U.S.-backed Southern Republic of Vietnam.

Construction of the metro line number began in 2012. The line, which is scheduled to open by 2020, will connect District 1 and District 9 .