Source: Vientiane Times
A private company that currently holds a concession for the Nam Phou fountain square in Xiengngeun village, Chanthabouly district, is returning the site for general public use, following a request by the government.
The handover of the fountain square to the government was announced by the company.
The site has a long history. In the 1920s, it was home to the Vientiane Morning Market. In 1975, the fountain was added and a circular path built around it, and it formally became the Fountain Park in 2000.
It is a landmark in the city and for years was a popular gathering place for locals and foreign residents, who gathered in the cool of the evening to refresh themselves by the fountain and enjoy a drink and a snack.
But with Vientiane authorities operating under a tight budget, the site began to deteriorate. It became dark, the fountain stopped working, and there was no shelter from the sun or rain.
Nam Phou’s deteriorating condition in the mid-2000s led the government to privatise the public area, granting a developer a 30-year concession on the 4,000-square-metre site.
The company ploughed more than 10 billion kip into improvements, repairing the fountain, improving the lighting, creating pathways, and adding toilets and restaurants.
The square reopened to the public in 2012 as the Mix Restaurant and was rebranded to Nam Phou Park in 2017, becoming a commercial venue hosting several restaurants and entertainment venues.
In the past, the site served as a place to welcome Lao and foreign guests. Meetings were held there, it was a tourist attraction, youth activities were organised, and art exhibitions took place, with about 20,000-30,000 people visiting the square each year.
But last year, local residents and the government became concerned about inappropriate use of the square, which no longer reflected the country’s cultural values or the will of the general public.
So the concessionaire returned the park to the government, which will now be managed by Vientiane authorities and turned into a public park.
However, the handover may be delayed while discussions take place concerning the design and new format of the square, which authorities agree should reflect the origins of the site.
City authorities have invited architects, other experts, and the departments concerned to give their opinions on the best use of the square.
After that, designs will be submitted to the Vientiane administration and the government, who will decide on the layout of the site, how much money will be needed for maintenance, and whether some of the buildings could be turned into a museum or tourist information centre. Buildings that obscure the centre of the park will be demolished so that the fountain becomes the main feature.
Demolition will begin at the end of August after Vientiane authorities give their approval.
The concessionaire does not require any compensation and will agree to make contributions to the square’s makeover, following the advice of the Vientiane administration to ensure the site reflects the country’s heritage.
Over the next month, Vientiane authorities are inviting the public to provide comments and proposals for improvements so that the square is a place of beauty and serves people from all walks of life.