YHT calls for green space at railway site
Yangon Heritage Trust says the Central Railway Station is underdeveloped and should be redesigned in a way that promotes more public space.
ONE OF downtown Yangon’s largest pockets of undeveloped land presents a unique opportunity to create a useable public space, says Yangon Heritage Trust, singling out the Yangon Railway Station site in its new urban planning report.
YHT has proposed that the 63acre site between the central station and Aung San Stadium be redesigned as a large public square. They suggest the site could be, at least in part, designated a green space, developed for the purpose of holding festivals, night markets and sports events.
“The Yangon Railway Station site is the one rare great blank space near the centre of downtown,” said YHT director Daw Moe Moe Lwin.
The site has been the subject of a public tender process by Myanma Railways. A shortlist of 15 potential developers was released in February this year.
The announcement of successful applicants is slated to be made in May next year in state media. This is the second tender process for the site. Initial calls for expressions of interest were made in 2014, but cancelled in 2015 – reportedly due to a lack of suitable applications.
Daw Moe Moe Lwin said the site is of real importance in downtown Yangon’s urban development, and that short-, medium- and long-term planning for any major construction projects is crucial.
“There are many view points to see Shwedagon Pagoda, Saint Paul’s, and many of Yangon’s characteristic heritage buildings,” she said. “If we have many high-rise buildings on that land, views will be blocked.”
“The Railway Station needs to provide social benefit for Yangon residents. We would like to have more public spaces for residents included under any new projects on that land,” she said.
She urged that transport be given serious consideration, suggesting safe pedestrian access as well as bus stops for accessing the railway network was necessary. Similarly, establishing a car park could take some of the strain off nearby side streets, she said.
YHT says the site presents a key opportunity to provide Yangon with an enhanced transport hub that links into a wider bus network, the Circle Line and Myanmar’s national railway system.
Yangon Heritage Trust was formed in 2012 and advocates for protection of heritage buildings, as well as developing sustainable policies to promote the city’s unique urban landscape. They aim to combine development and preservation, in order to mould Yangon into one of Asia’s most livable cities.
Kyauktada township resident U Phay Myint said, in terms of downtown public spaces, there is currently only Mahabandoola Park. He said he supports the idea of developing a sports field or night market within the railway station area, alongside any new high-rise buildings and office towers.
“There are large spaces within the Yangon Railway Station site and that no one can use that space at the moment is a pity. If there are public spaces, residents of downtown can go for sport or to a night market with family. It will be a very good and prosperous place,” he said.
“The government may already have projects for that land, but we hope they will implement public spaces within that area,” he said, adding that there were other large government-owned sites that could also be better used.
“I would like to develop not only that railway station but also the spaces of old ministry buildings,” he said.
Ma Thiri, a regular commuter between downtown and Mingaladon township, said she prefers to use the train due to the city’s ever-worsening traffic problem.
“Traffic is very bad – if I go home by car, it takes over two hours from downtown. If I take the train, it takes no more than 50 minutes,” she said.
However, Ma Thiri said the railway site in its current state comes with its own set of safety concerns – something she feels could be alleviated by improved lighting and development.
“While it is a large space, I don’t dare to go into the compound at night except to go to the railway station. We can see many vagrants in the surrounding area. If there are good roads with full lights, people can go comfortably without being afraid. Criminal cases will also decrease,” she said.
‘The Yangon Railway Station site is the one rare great blank space near the centre of downtown.’
Daw Moe Moe Lwin Yangon Heritage Trust
Pedestrians walk by Yangon Railway Station, a site that the Yangon Heritage Trust would like to see developed into a more public-friendly space.