|A bridge in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area, HCM City. The city wants to develop the land into a financial district, but has been advised to make a long-term plan and wait for demand to rise before pressing ahead with the work. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai
HCM CITY — Developing the Thu Thiem Urban Area in HCM City into a financial district should be done slowly and flexibly because demand for office space is very low at present, a British expert has advised the municipal leadership.
Howard Dawber, Strategic Advisor of Canary Wharf Group, who was invited to HCM City to advise the local government on developing the peninsula, suggested that the city looks at long-term benefits and offers more incentives to investors.
At a Wednesday meeting with the city's administration, Dawber shared some of the challenges his firm had faced in developing the Canary Wharf in London, the city's largest regeneration project as also the largest banking centre in Europe.
Canary Wharf Group is the developer, manager and construction company for the Canary Wharf estate, which covers approximately 97 hectares.
Dawber said the Thu Thiem Peninsula, which is very similar to Canary Wharf in terms of scale and topography, will attract many investors "if brought to Great Britain."
However, with the scant local demand due to global economic difficulties, the project should be developed slowly, he told Nguyen Thi Hong, Vice Chairwoman of the HCM City People's Committee.
He recalled that when Canary Wharf opened in London, office prices went down sharply and many developers went bankrupt.
While HCM City will be a big mega city of the 21st century, potential investors in Thu Thiem will certainly worry about current and future demand, he said.
He suggested that the city government offers lower land prices to lure more investors.
"I believe the prospects for Thu Thiem, in the medium term, are very strong," Dawber said.
HCM City is already a financial centre, which is very important in the regional context, he said at a press briefing after meeting with the city leadership.
He said that, eventually, all international banks in the world will come to the city.
"The city's People's Committee should look at the balance of short-term income and long-term income, because the long-term can make more money from taxes."
Douglas Barnes, British Consul General and Director of UK Trade & Investment (Viet Nam), said developing Thu Thiem will increase the status of HCM City in the region as a major commercial hub.
Last February, Hong headed a delegation of city officials to London's Canary Wharf to learn how the area managed to overcome its financial difficulties and attract investment.
Impressed by what she saw, Hong invited representatives from Canary Wharf Group to visit HCM City and speak further on developing the Thu Thiem Peninsula.
So far, the new urban area, billed as a financial, commercial and entertainment hub, has failed to attract investors due to poorly developed infrastructure, high land prices and a stagnant property market.
The mega project was begun as early as 1996, and it took municipal authorities more than ten years to relocate 60,000 local residents from the area. — VNS