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Plan to Put Canopy Over Treeless Lê Lợi Pavement Sparks Debate

Late last week, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Planning and Architecture unveiled a proposal to install canopies across Lê Lợi Boulevard’s pavement.

As VnExpress reports, the canopies are part of a public amenity proposal the department submitted to the HCMC People’s Committee, aiming to improve the landscape of Lê Lợi after years of being fenced off for metro construction.

The project is estimated to cost VND20–30 billion, involving the installation of four-meter-wide metallic canopies over sections of the Lê Lợi pavement. The proposal promises “a design using colors that are harmonious with surrounding scenery.”

In May 2017, the northern half of the iconic Saigon boulevard was sectioned off to serve underground construction of the city’s Metro Line 1, resulting in the removal of 28 heritage trees on this pavement. Last year, from April to October, the metro project gradually returned the pavement and two lanes of the street to pedestrians and motorists, but the new sidewalk remains treeless and exposed to the elements. 

The canopy proposal has sparked heated debate on local cyber spaces as netizens express concerns over the need for new canopies. According to an informal poll put up by Tuổi Trẻ, 84.8% people surveyed (1.282 votes) voted no to the new setup. Many pointed out that trees would do a much better job of providing both shade and aesthetic appeal.

Proprietors of businesses along the pavement, however, are mostly in agreement, believing that the provided shade will help boost customer retainment during the hottest hours of the day.

In an interview with Tuổi Trẻ, a department representative shared that the covered walkway will not run throughout Lê Lợi, but only span certain sections. Smaller plants like vines and flower pots will be included, though tall trees won’t be possible due to the area’s infrastructure constraints involving the underground metro.

The pavement stretch from Phan Bội Châu to Nguyễn Trung Trực was an example given by the representative of a historic shophouse row that would get coverage and a painted makeover. “Beneath this area is the metro station and subterranean commercial floors so we need to carefully determine the suitable types of trees,” the representative added. “The installation will be aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting, not just a temporary structure.”

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