Ongoing Suspension Puts High-Rise Developers, Investment Commission at Loggerheads

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 12 March 2015

RANGOON — The suspension period for five construction projects within the vicinity of Shwedagon Pagoda has been extended, as the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) considers recommendations to reduce planned building heights, according to a senior official.

Work at the five separate developments in Dagon Township was suspended on Jan. 22 after the MIC requested a four-week pause to allow an inspection by an independent review team, comprising members of the Myanmar Engineering Society and the municipal High-Rise Inspection Committee.

Aung Naing Oo, the MIC secretary, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the commission had extended the suspension order on the developments after a Saturday meeting at the Rangoon Divisional Government Office with members of the inspection team and project representatives.

“During the meeting, the inspection team briefed us on their findings and presented their suggestions,” Aung Naing Oo said. “Even though development companies were initially allowed to build up to 190 feet, the inspection team recommended a reduction in building heights and some changes in design. We have extended the suspension that applies to all projects in the area.”

He said the MIC had not set an exact end to the suspension period, which will be lifted depending on how quickly the development companies were able to respond to the recommendations.

“The faster they respond, the shorter the suspension will be,” he said.

Suggestions that the review team is pushing for a reduction in building heights have put the MIC at loggerheads with Marga Landmark, the majority partner in the largest and most expensive of the five projects.

Construction has yet to begin at Dagon City 1, a US$300 million, 22-acre development slated to feature a five star hotel, serviced apartments and a shopping complex. Marga Landmark has told The Irrawaddy that they have not received either any official order to modify its proposal, or notice of the extension of the project’s suspension.

“We understand the review undertaken by MIC and other authorized departments may take longer than expected but we respect and appreciate MIC’s due diligence,” said Marga Landmark spokesperson Soe Thu Tun. “Dagon City 1 has been cooperating with and complying with the requests of MES, who conducted the assessment. According to the presentation made by the MES last Saturday… the findings pertaining to Dagon City 1 are satisfactory.”

“Dagon City 1 has obtained the necessary approvals from the MIC, High-Rise Inspection Committee and Yangon City Development Committee on our master plan, including the height limit. All the plans and preparations are in accordance with what Dagon City 1 has been approved,” he added.

Local firm Thu Kha Yadanar, which has a 30 percent stake in Dagon City 1, could not be reached for comment on Saturday’s meeting despite repeated attempts. The company, which is also the sole developer of the nearby Dagon City 2 project, announced last month that it was modifying its development after the intervention of the review team.

During a February interview with The Irrawaddy, Thu Kha Yadanar director Thaung Htike Min said that his firm had been ordered to set back some buildings in the Dagon City 2 proposal by 40 feet in order to avoid encroaching upon the nearby Signal Pagoda. At the time, Thaung Htike Min said that his company had agreed to the review team’s decision and modified the project’s design.