HCM City is planning to conserve its French-era villas which are being razed one by one to make way for high-rise buildings.

Most of them are in Districts 1 and 3, with a high concentration being on Tu Xuong and Le Quy Don streets.

The Department of Construction is drawing up a list of surviving villas and will hire Japanese consultants to draft a master plan for conserving while also using them as offices, schools, restaurants and hotels.

Ly Khanh Tam Thao, deputy head of the Department of Planning and Architecture's municipal area management division, said: "They should be protected from the creep of urbanisation and from being pulled down for their valuable land."

Only ornate buildings like the city hall and the HCM City Opera House would be used for their original purpose, he said.

"Owners of villas will be allowed to build other structures at the back but they must be responsible for protecting their facade and interior."

But since traffic could become a problem on roads leading to them if they were used as offices, schools, restaurants or hotels, traffic infrastructure in their vicinity must be modified, said Nguyen Van Chinh, director of the Southern Institute of Traffic and Communications.

"Operating public transport to these places is a good way to reduce the number of private vehicles," he added.

Luong Hien Chung of the HCM City University of Transport said, however, the villas' large yards should be used as parking lots for visitors' vehicles.

Thao said villa owners should be charged heavily for services and the money would be used to improve traffic infrastructure in the vicinity.

Many villas house luxurious French restaurants./.