Saturday, October 29, 2016
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Heritage trust slates Pansodan, Yangon for danger review

Workers demolish the interior of 233-235 Pansodan Street October 2012. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)Workers demolish the interior of 233-235 Pansodan Street October 2012. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)

AMID residents’ complaints over delays, the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) will assess a Pansodan Street building on which demolition work was halted after a media campaign have challenged statements by heritage activists.

The YHT will start the assessment of 233-235 Pansodan Street in the middle of the month, Daw Moe Moe Lwin, vice chairman of the YHT told The Myanmar Times on January 2.

On the same day, residents of the building told the YHT that the building was originally a maternity hospital, and rebuffed the organisation’s claims that it has an historic connection to the Dobama Asiayone independence movement.

Residents claimed the Dobama Asiayone (We Burmans Association), which had agitated for independence from the British, had an office in the second floor of the adjoining building instead.

During the meeting with the YHT, residents gave the committee photos of safety hazards in the building and asked how they would work with the developer to reconstruct the building.

“What I want to ask is if the redevelopment will only allow the building to be constructed up to 12 storeys, and how we can figure out commercial benefit. That’s the purpose of the assessment and using professional expertise in mid-January,” said Daw Moe Moe Lwin.

She added that reconstruction of the building is particularly difficult because there is no general guideline for height limits on heritage sites in Yangon.

All old buildings that pose a danger to residents are also in need of a structural assessment, she said.

“Since the formation of the YHT in June, we’ve aimed to review all dangerous buildings in Yangon. We try to preserve buildings that are structurally safe to preserve the city’s architectural character. But buildings that are a hazard to residents need to be demolished, and we try to preserve the building’s original character,” she said.

The YHT has made an agreement with the Yangon City Development Committee to conserve as much of a heritage building’s architecture when it is demolished. However, Daw Moe Moe Lwin said this is often a challenge.

“Sometimes, a building assessment tells us little about the structural condition. Therefore, the YHT needs to consult with technical experts to reveal the actual condition of a building. If it’s possible, we need to find out how to renovate the building and then reflect the original character of the building.

“But we accept that if the building is too dangerous, it must be substituted with a new one. We’re worried that rebuilding might change the original architectural style of the city, so we’re trying to conserve Yangon’s heritage buildings through consultations with technical experts.

Profitable development means degrading the city’s architectural style,” she said.

Workers began demolishing the upper levels of the four-storey building at 233-235 Pansodan Street in October after it was declared a dangerous structure by the YCDC.

The four owners, whose apartments each covered a floor of the building, were evicted by the YCDC in September. The site’s developer, United Construction Company, planned to build a 12-storey condominium on the site and the four owners said it had agreed to provide them with an apartment on the same level as the residence they had vacated.

During the meeting on January 2, Daw Moe Moe Lwin said United Construction Company and the building’s residents seemed likely to agree on reducing the plans for redevelopment to 10 storeys.