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

  • Companies listed on CSX receive 50% deduction on income tax

    Tax incentives are granted to companies that have listed their shares or issued debt securities on the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), whether they are small to medium-sized enterprises or large companies. The nine stock listed companies on the CSX – with seven listed on the Main

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Cambodia mourns over UK’s Queen Elizabeth II

    Cambodia has joined other nations around the world to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, with King Norodom Sihanomi, Prime Minister Hun Sen and National Assembly president Heng Samrin extending their condolences in separate letters. In his letter to the late Queen’s son –

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Railway project studies proceed

    The transport ministry is exploring options to expedite preliminary studies on key public railway infrastructure projects, especially the conversion of the Northern Railway Line that links to Thailand into high-speed rail. Railway freight and passenger transportation has been pinpointed as a major potential engine of