White Building to be replaced in 2017

White Building to be replaced in 2017

Phnom Penh’s iconic but dilapidated ‘White Building’ has long been subject to rumours of destruction amid calls for preservation by residents. But if a project proposed by a Japanese investor and the Cambodian government is deemed viable, the building will be demolished in 2017 to be replaced by a 21-storey condominium tower.

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) has been working on a project with the Japan-based Arakawa Company to redevelop the crumbling building in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune into modern condos.

Estimated to cost between USD70-80 million, the project will include a 3-storey car park, a floor for retail space, and five floors dedicated to 600 affected families whose provided units will be 10 percent bigger than their current homes. From the ninth floor up, the condo units will be owned and sold by Arakawa for the return on their investment.  A budget will also be set aside for temporary buildings for affected residents in Teuk Thla commune during the construction period.

In a follow-up meeting on 27 November with representatives from the ‘Building Community’ that represents over 600 resident families, H.E. Chea Sophara, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction emphasised the potential of the project and requested residents to wait for four years until the new building is ready for inhabitants.

He gave affected families two options; accept compensation and leave the building or wait for four years to get a new home that will enhance their lifestyle.

Despite most of the 600 families being excited by the project, they still haven’t reached a full consensus. While some of them remain unconfident about the development, others are bargaining over the compensation rate, requesting between USD70,000 - USD80,000 per family if they decide to leave.
Since there is not yet full consensus from the residents, Arakawa has not yet confirmed its commitment to the investment plan. The ministry will, after the residents reach the agreement, submit the official investment proposal to the government for approval. If things go to plan, it is expected that construction will kick off in 2017 and be completed in 2021.

While construction is underway, Arakawa will provide temporary residences to affected families on land it owns behind the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital at Teuk Thla commune, Sen Sok district.

The White Building was originally named as the Municipal Apartments and was built in the 1960s during King Sihanouk’s reign as part of the ambitious Bassac River Front cultural complex that lay on reclaimed land along the Bassac River. The project was designed by Cambodian architect Lu Ban Hap and Russian architect Vladimir Bodiansky and overseen by Vann Molyvann, the first Cambodian architect to receive a modern education in France. It was inaugurated in 1963 and comprised of 468 apartments, as the first attempt to offer multi-storey modern urban lifestyles to lower- and middle-class Cambodians.

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