A 40-storey office and hotel tower will replace the 136-year-old ​Sai Gon Tax Trade Centre in HCM City’s District 1 (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) - Demolition work on the Saigon Tax Trade Centre, built by the French 135 years ago, began on October 12 in HCM City to make way for a 40-storey office and hotel tower and the first metro subway route.

Construction on the new building, the Saigon Tax Plaza, will begin early next year.

The building will be linked to the city’s first metro line which runs between B e n Th a nh market in District 1 to ​Suoi Tien Park in T​hu Duc District, slated to be completed by 2020.

Doan Hoai Minh, Deputy Director of Saigon Trading Company (Satra), investor of the project, said the multi-functional building, which has six basements and a helipad, will provide shopping, office and hotel services.

In late 2014, the city approved a proposal from the city’s Architecture Department to preserve the main lobby, the grand staircase and its bronze railings, according to Minh.

These parts have been removed over the past three months.

Minh said the existing mosaic tiles in the lobby would be removed and used for the new staircase.

According to city authorities, the new building will preserve the general image of the old building in order to be in harmony with nearby historic buildings, including the HCM City’s People’s Committee, the Rex Hotel and the Opera House.

The Saigon Tax Trade Centre was built in 1880 and has been renovated many times.

Some of the building’s interior elements, including the main lobby, mosaic tiled floor and the main staircase, have been well maintained since the 19th century.

Originally known as the Les Grands Magasins Charner, the 9,200-sq metre building opened in 1924 and became “the place to shop in Saigon”, Tim Doling, a historian based in HCM City, said on his blog Historic Vietnam.

Last renovated in 2003, the building retains many of its original interior features, notably its beautiful stairway and its decorative wrought iron railings, Doling said.

In 2010 the city approved a project to replace the building, with demolition planned for 2014.

But the plan has been postponed due to strong protest from the public. More than 300 architects, researchers and students signed a petition calling on the city to preserve parts of the iconic building.

Founded in 1880, Les Grands Magasins Charnier is one of many historic structures built during the French-colonial period, including Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office and HCM City City Hall.-VNA