RANGOON — Work is set to resume at several Dagon City development projects on Thursday after the expiry of a four week building halt, with one company ordered to modify its construction plans in order to safeguard the nearby Signal Pagoda. While a report on the projects has yet to be made public, officials negotiated a redesign of the mixed residential and commercial Dagon City 2 development, according to Thaung Htike Min, the director of local company Thu Kha Yadanar. “They found that two blocks of Dagon City 2 are too close to the Signal Pagoda,” he told The Irrawaddy. “We have to set them back 40 feet and we have rectified the design under the instruction of the inspection team.” Known as 'Alan Pya Phaya' in Burmese, the historic pagoda, built hundreds of years ago, takes its name from the signal station at Sale Barracks, the site of a British garrison during the colonial era. In recent years, former junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his wife donated money for building works at the pagoda, and a plaque honoring his contribution remains on the temple grounds. [irrawaddy_gallery] The $75 million Dagon City 2 project will be fully funded by Thu Kha Yadanar, which also maintains a 30 percent stake in nearby, 22 acre Dagon City 1 project alongside the international Marga Group syndicate. According to reports from the MIC, confirmed by Thaung Htike Min, Dagon City 1 appears set to be cleared for the resumption of work without any modifications to the project. Along with three other projects, work at the Dagon City developments was halted on Jan. 22 at the request of the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), in order to allow an independent inspection by the Myanmar Engineers Society and the municipal Committee for Quality Control of High Rise Building Projects. On Feb. 7, The Irrawaddy reported comments by Toe Aung, director of the Urban Planning Department at the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), saying that the halt had been ordered because additional storeys had been added to the original design after the MIC and YCDC granted approval to the projects. Marga Group chairman Stephen Suen denied the report last week, telling The Irrawaddy that the construction halt was a normal component of the review of high-rise projects, and the Dagon City 1 was within authorized height limits of 190 feet. Thaung Htike Min said that his company was ready to abide by the decisions of the review team, and stated that the Dagon City 2 design had otherwise not changed since the project was approved. “We welcome it and we are ready to follow any decisions,” he said. For Dagon City 2, according to the inspection team’s instructions, there will be only five to six storey buildings in those two blocks [around Signal Pagoda]. The rest are seven to eight storeys. Everything will be alright.” The inspection report has yet to be made public. The findings of the inspection team will first be sent to President Thein Sein for review, according to Association for Myanmar Architects President Sun Oo, suggesting the Union government is eager to attend to public concern over construction projects near the historic Shwedagon Pagoda. Thu Kha Yadanar was awarded the 51.73-acre site for the Dagon City projects, previously owned by the military, during an open tender by the Quartermaster General’s Office in 2013. Defeating 25 other bidders, the company paid $2 million for a land use premium, and is leasing the land under a 70-year build-operate-transfer agreement at a price of US$15 per square meter per year, according to Thaung Htike Min. Over the duration of the lease, Thu Kha Yadanar will pay approximately US$221 million in 2015 dollars for the plot. Thaung Ktike Min told The Irrawaddy that Thu Kha Yadanar’s investments in the Dagon City projects have been backed by loans from Kanbawza Bank (KBZ), chaired by Aung Ko Win. Reported to have been close to former junta deputy Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, Aung Ko Win took over KBZ Bank in 2000 and at one time was the chair of several jade mining companies based in Mong Hsu and Hpakant. Thu Kha Yadanar’s portfolio stretches across hotel investments, wood products and tourism. In partnership with KBZ Group, the parent company of KBZ Bank, it operates the Kempinski Hotel in Naypyidaw, the City Golf Resort Hotel in Rangoon and Hotel Mandalay. Under its English name, Jewellery Luck, the company is renovating the historic Police Commissioner’s Office in Rangoon, in partnership with the management of the Kempinski Group.
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