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Hanoi needs ‘multi-central’ areas

It is difficult for Hanoi to develop a center with the current transport system. Expansion to the suburbs is inevitable. Many major cities in the region do the same.



Mr. Pham Van Tuan (Ha Dong district, Hanoi) says the distance from his house to his office building in Hai Ba Trung Street is about 10km, but it takes him nearly two hours to go to work or to return home after work because of traffic jams. “It makes me very tired.”

Mr. Tran Duc Hai, 38, bought an apartment on Trung Hoa Nhan Chinh area in 2010, so he clearly feels how life has changed in the past 10 years.

“Ten years ago, the roads were clear and the pavements were open and spacious. Now, when it rains, I have to have my dinner at a restaurant. The reason is very simple: traffic jams, can't go home, so take advantage of waiting time for the traffic to ease to have dinner,” Hai said.

Architect Pham Thanh Tung, Chief of Office of the Vietnam Association of Architects, said that even though Hanoi built new roads, congestion still occurs because of the overcrowded population. Hanoi currently has nearly 10 million people and the number of personal vehicles is increasing rapidly. Meanwhile, the public transport system has not developed at the same pace of development.

According to experts, in order to keep up with urbanization, it is necessary to develop and expand the urban area. The central area should be the space for public functions. It is difficult for Hanoi to develop a center with the current transport system. Expansion to the suburbs is inevitable. Many major cities in the region do the same.

Lessons from Singapore and Seoul

Looking at urban planning and development in Hanoi, it seems similar to the urban development pattern of many large Asian cities. That includes the historic inner-city center and satellite towns linked together by radial and ring traffic axes.

After gaining independence and reconstruction, Singapore faced a housing shortage. The dam-and-build policy was carried out from the 1960s to the 70s. Singapore's new architectural plan was implemented in three main directions: residential, industrial and commercial.

By preserving and expanding, they retained historical sites and monuments such as Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Boat Quay, Little India, etc., while expanding to the outskirts in the early years of the 20th century as Secondary Settlement and Bungalows Area.

As it focused on developing clean industry, Singapore built satellite urban areas to reduce travel costs, save on living and solve on-site labor.

In Seoul (Korea), before the 70s, the majority of the population lived North of the Seoul River as a commercial district, also a gathering point of traffic hubs. After that, with the rapid urbanization process south of the Seoul River, the population layout became more balanced. The suburban cities are increasingly attracting people, even more than the central cities.

Building a multi-center model

In 2010, Hanoi announced Master Planning for 2030 - vision to 2050. The planning will revolve around urban clusters. This model includes the urban core in addition to small and medium satellites, connected by a dense network of ring roads, inter-provinces, national highways and railways.

The plan is expected to provide an opportunity to help urban restructuring and transition from one pole to multipolarity through the relocation of functions of the central area such as industry, services, commerce, education... to satellite cities, and at the same time build many new centers and expanding development.

Since this master planning was approved in 2011, Hanoi has changed dramatically and developed multipolarly. The announced central area belongs to Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Dong Da and Hai Ba Trung districts. The city will develop urban railways in the historic inner city, urban chains to the north of the Red River, on the side of the 4th Ring Road, and satellite urban areas formed with the social and technical infrastructure to gradually absorb the population of the historic inner city and expand the inner city to the suburbs.




In the past 10 years, the western part of Hanoi has invested heavily in infrastructure, affirming its position as the new administrative center of the capital city. According to data of market research firms such as Savills and CBRE, in recent years, the western area of Hanoi has changed quickly thanks to many large projects such as My Dinh, Bac An Khanh and Vinhomes Smart City.

To the East, investors realized that this area also has a lot of potential, and is very close to the central area of Hanoi, less than 3km away. A series of large estate projects such as Vinhomes Riverside, Vinhomes Ocean Park, Hanoi Garden City... have been implemented. This area has even more potential after Hanoi announced the planning of two large urban areas in the North of the Red River.

The three centers form the development triangle of Hanoi and do not stop there when the new areas are formed: Dong Anh, Dream City... Satellite cities are gradually formed as the destination for urban residents in the center areas.

Pham Ngoc Thien Thanh, Deputy Director of CBRE Vietnam, said that the current development of megacities or residential and commercial urban area projects in many parts of the city, especially in central and suburban areas are essential.

According to JLL, the integrated real estate model is a future trend of the market. This model refers to projects with the size of a small city, where many functions are integrated in one project such as housing, commerce, education, entertainment and many other utilities.

Eco-resort is an advantage from these cities. Do Viet Chien, General Secretary of the Vietnam Real Estate Association, said that the impact of the pandemic makes sustainable development no longer just a goal but a mandatory requirement.

“People today understand more and more that a livable place should be not only beautiful but also sustainable, a city that is flexible enough to adapt and cope with the anomalies of the natural and social environment. And that has become the criterion for choosing living spaces in urban areas," said Chien.

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