HCM City downtown can expect a major facelift along the bank of the Sai Gon River from Sai Gon Bridge to District 4's Tan Thuan Bridge.

HCM City People's Committee met Japan's Nikken Sekkei last week to discuss the company's facelift proposal that had won a 2007 design competition held by the city to expand the downtown area and beautify the river bank area.

The committee said they would implement Nikken Sekkei's plan, in which existing ports would be removed and roads altered, to make way for a 50-m wide band of public areas and tree-filled parks along the river.

The proposed 124-ha facelift area is bordered by streets of Nguyen Huu Canh, Ton Duc Thang, and Nguyen Tat Thanh.

"This proposal once implemented entirely will help to stop traffic congestion and flooding in the existing centre," said Nguyen Trong Hoa, director of the HCM City Institute for Development Research.

The facelift is proposed in five key sections, namely Bach Dang Harbour Park, Nam Thi Nghe, Ba Son, District 4's Sai Gon Port, and Sai Gon New Port.

The 12-ha new Bach Dang Harbour Park will take the place of existing parks and part of Ba Son Shipyard's wharf and yard. It will consist of parks, entertainment and tourist service centre, boat taxi station and a two-storey parking lot and trade centre.

Residences will be designated to the 14-ha Nam Thi Nghe Zone, bordered by Nguyen Huu Canh boulevard, Sai Gon and Thu Thiem bridges, with a maximum population of 4,300 people. Height limits for buildings will be between 30-150m. It has commercial, trade, entertainment, and educational and cultural functions.

The 22-ha zone of Ba Son, bordered by the existing Ton Duc Thang and Nguyen Huu Canh boulevards, will also have 4,700 residents with building heights limited to 220m. Buildings in Ba Son Shipyard will be retained for tourist, entertainment and cultural purposes.

The 45-ha District 4 Sai Gon Port will have residential capacity of 6,500 people, with height limits of 140m. Land with good river views will be planted with trees. A foot road will link Thu Ngu flag pole and historical Nha Rong Wharf, which is to be expanded with more trees and cultural buildings.

Bordered by Nguyen Huu Canh and Sai Gon River, the widest section of Sai Gon New Port will be 49ha and home to 14,300. Buildings as high as 270m will be permitted with shorter ones by the river. This zone consists of two boat taxi stations and a big park.

The city Department of Planning and Architecture said Nikken Sekkei would complete a scaled down master plan by the end of this year, the first part of which would be the removal of Sai Gon New Port, Sai Gon Port, and the Ba Son Shipyard.

Final decisions whether to approve the plan would be made then.

Tran Chi Dung, director of the department, said further plans to expand the city center would be done after the facelift was complete.

Nikkei's proposal would reduce road areas to 20 percent of the western bank of Sai Gon River, and be 50 percent public parks.

It's a positive sign for sustainable development, experts said./.