Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry praises redevelopment of White Building as ‘model for future’



Ministry praises redevelopment of White Building as ‘model for future’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has released a book heralding the redevelopment process behind the iconic White Building, demolished in 2017. Photo supplied

Ministry praises redevelopment of White Building as ‘model for future’

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has released a book detailing the process of development at the site of Phnom Penh’s White Building leading to the iconic structure’s demolition in 2017.

Minster of Land Management Chea Sophara said he regarded the book as offering a model for future redevelopment projects.

The 87-page book, Implementation Experiences of the White Building Redevelopment, details the process, from the start of negotiations with all 492 families living there, the agreement between residents and the developers, and finally the famous structure’s demolition.

“I hope this book . . . which contains complete information about the mechanisms and procedures, the process of task implementation, and finally the demolishing process of the White Building can be used as a document detailing the model to be used in other similar redevelopment projects."

“[I hope it] can be seen as a documentation of experience for relevant officials in the future,” read the book’s preface by Sophara.

The book’s introduction outlines something of the White Building’s history. Construction began in 1961 on a low-cost housing option for low- to middle-class families, and it was completely abandoned when the Khmer Rouge cleared Phnom Penh of its residents in 1975.

When the genocidal regime fell four years later, people returned to live in the building, which was now in a dilapidated condition after being left unused for so long.

The book recounts how, in late 2016, the government was concerned the building was structurally unsound and therefore unfit for residents to live in.

A solution was found in cooperation with Japanese real estate company Arakawa Co to develop the area.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman stands next to electricity meters at the White Building in July 2015. Photo supplied

The company has said it plans to construct a 21-storey building at a cost of some $80 million. Construction has begun.

Based on ‘good governance’

The introduction says the book was useful for relevant stakeholders in solving housing problems for poor people and those with low incomes, especially as the mechanisms and procedures used were based on good governance.

The book concludes that the successful solution for White Building residents came from four factors – Sophara’s strong leadership, clear and effective working structures, procedures based on transparency, equity and equality between residents and the developers, and the involvement of relevant stakeholders.

It says the redevelopment of the White Building reflected the good investment environment of a Cambodia that is peaceful and politically stable.

Former White Building resident Sreng Pov, who now lives in the capital’s Meanchey district, said on Tuesday that she appreciated the government’s efforts in finding the right solution for all White Building residents, with an acceptable offer they could accept voluntarily and without feeling forced.

“I thank [the government] for finding the right solution. They made an offer without forcing people to accept it, and we voluntarily left the building without fear."

“The building was old, and Sophara cared about us and looked for a solution for us by cooperating with [the development] partner."

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
All 493 families living in the White Building have accepted compensation packages and vacated to make way for a new high-rise. Pha Lina

“This means the residents now have proper houses, and I thank him for this,” she said.

Pov said the compensation process in the White Building redevelopment was smoother than in other projects.

Ministry of Land Management spokesperson Seng Lot said Implementation Experiences of the White Building Redevelopment was published in September.

The White Building, often mistaken as by visionary Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann, was actually designed by compatriot Lu Ban Hap and Russian-born architect Vladimir Bodiansky. It was inaugurated in 1963 as the “Municipal Apartments”.

The project was part of the urban transformation undertaken by then King Norodom Sihanouk following independence from the French. Archival images of the White Building show it flanked by manicured lawns on both sides, with the Molyvann-designed National Theatre, which is still standing, on the Riverside.

Molyvann, who passed away in 2017 aged 90, was foremost of the architects of the optimistic post-independence “Golden Era” who developed the architecture of the period, known as New Khmer Architecture.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there