Conservation projects in Yangon face long road ahead

Several high-profile renovation projects for Yangon’s most iconic heritage structures tendered by the state one year ago have yet to begin as the government is slow to rubberstamp master plans, while some development firms have yet to submit them, officials said.

In November last year, the Myanmar Investment Commission chose four firms to separately convert the state-owned Secretariat, High Court, the State House and Ministry of Railways building into museums, hotels, offices and shops in a highly-publicised bidding process.

But the process has moved slowly and there is no telling when those projects will begin, developers said. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars are being left on the table, while some of those buildings remain closed to the public.

U Thein Tun, of Tun Foundation Bank, who was awarded the bid to develop the colonial High Court in Maha Bandoola Garden Street, told The Myanmar Times that he submitted his plans to spend US$250 million to transform the building into a museum five months ago, but has heard nothing about when construction could begin.

“Now I think we are full of delays – it will be another two or three years until the building is done,” he said.

Developers Flying Tiger Engineering, meanwhile, who lodged a successful tender bid in mid-November 2012 to redevelop the State House, near the Yangon international airport, into a luxury hotel and residential accommodation complex, said they too are waiting on the MIC.

“We have already submitted our final plans and are waiting for approval from the MIC to begin importing materials and machinery,” Flying Tiger Engineering managing director U Thaung Htike Minn told The Myanmar Times.

He said that it remains unclear when such approval will be granted despite his firm having done all in its power to get construction moving.

“We needed to agree on a lot of details, do due diligence, feasibility studies to come up with one vision and one solution for the project,” he said.

The project comes as a joint venture between Singapore-based DP Architects and an undisclosed hotel operator out of Singapore.

Under the MIC arrangement, successful tenders must submit detailed technical design plans for final approval before any construction can begin and once final approval is granted the development companies have two years to complete renovation works, a demand some experts claim is unreasonable.

MIC’s director general, U Aung Naing Oo, said he expected at least one of the projects to be authorised by the end of the year as they have granted licences for those businesses to operate once construction is completed.

“These are potential tourist destinations for the future and can reveal the taste for [Myanmar’s] historic past as well as increase income in the tourism sector.”

While plans for the High Court building and State House have been submitted, others are still being finalised.

Cyrus Pun, executive director at Yoma Strategic Holdings, who won the rights to develop the railway headquarters in Yangon, said that plans would have to wait until the firm is able to finalise a deal with Hong Kong Shanghai Hotels to co-develop the property.

Anawmar Arts Group, who are to develop the Secretariat into a museum, gallery and retail complex, meanwhile still need to conclude contractual negotiations with the regional authorities before they can submit their plans to the MIC, Le Yee Soe, a director of the firm, said by email.

“We already have proposed a draft contract which we had consulted with the legal authorities from the Yangon Region Legislative Council. We expect that the review of the contract by the Yangon Region is finalising soon and that we will be able to sign with them in the near future,”

Source: Myanmar Times

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