I love the names of some condo buildings and developments here, e.g., The Authentic, The One, Zen. They’re so pretentious and over-the-top. Some put a smile on my face while others make me want to cry and mourn the loss of agricultural land and the scenic beauty that is (was) Vietnam.
The latest is The Empire, a modestly named Vinhomes project located about 23 km from downtown Hanoi in the countryside of Hung Yen province. (If you don’t read Vietnamese, use Google Translate and look at the pictures, which are worth thousands of words.) Also known as Vinhomes Ocean Park 2, within spitting distance of #1, it will be a $1.44 billion community of homes, shophouses, condos, shops, etc., ad nauseam on a sprawling tract of 457.92 hectares (1132 acres). Here’s a recently released video.
I recently drove out there to have a look for myself. There was a distinctive smell hanging in the air, the smell of money. People were flocking from all over with salespeople waving brochures at every turn, all afflicted with an incurable case of property fever. In the absence of property taxes, real estate speculation is rampant in Vietnam.
People talk about real estate bubbles. The main point about Vietnam is that it’s a small country that is not going to get any bigger with a population of nearly 100 million, including many with considerable ability to pay and invest. The only people left holding the bag in this world of winners and losers will be those who invest in an already saturated market segment in which prices either hold steady or begin to decline.
As with all Vinhomes projects, the all-consuming emphasis on profit maximization is obvious just by looking at the artist’s rendering and plan. They really know how to pack in the buildings – like sardines. What you see is mostly concrete and glass with relatively little green space. This is in contrast to Ecopark, a popular subdivision on the outskirts of Hanoi and a short drive from Ocean Park 1 and 2. Another difference between Vinhomes and Ecopark was that the latter compensated the original property owners with cash and with land elsewhere. Vinhomes just pays cash for the property.
These developments always remind me of this scene from the movie You, Me and Dupree (2006).
Mr. Thompson: The Oaks at Mesa Vista, stunning, stunning…
Carl: You know sir, if we’re not going to have any trees, maybe we should consider changing the name. Thompson: No! no, no. I love the name. Names are important Carl.
When confronted with the model shown above, Carl doesn’t like it.
Carl: What is this? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of a joke?
Tony: Carl, Thompson wanted more units. I thought it would work better as a wrap around.
Carl: Wrap around? Mesa Vista is not a wrap around.
Mr. Thompson: You see the preliminaries?
Carl: Yeah, I did. It is completely different from my original proposal.
Mr. Thompson: Goddammit Carl, would you stop fighting this? People buy homes, let the government pay for the parks, that’s why we have taxes. The Oaks at Mesa Vista is a money train. You want to be on it?
Here’s what the area looked like in early 2021 before the bulldozers and cranes moved in.
Finally, I have some questions and must admit that I’m afraid of the answers. I know, I know – these are rhetorical but I feel compelled to ask them anyway. For example, was there an environmental impact study? How will wastewater be treated? What about garbage disposal and recycling? Last but not least, on a political note, do you know much influence you need to secure that much land in which a country in which land is at a premium?
Shalom (שלום), MAA