Address:     Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Road
Year built:   2010-2016 (estimated for Zone B)
Architect:    Dragages Singapore (contractors for Zone B)

Sitting on 170 hectares of land on the banks of the Bago River, this master-planned gated community is the most extensive residential project to date on Yangon’s real estate market. It stands in Yangon’s periphery, in Thanlyin, which is a town in its own right: it was only connected to Yangon in 1993, when a bridge across the Bago River was built. The deep sea port of Thilawa is just 15 kilometres to the south, placing Star City in a strategic position between Yangon’s centre and this new major special economic zone.

The building blocks are built to different heights

The development is split into several phases. The first one is now complete and largely occupied. Its five star-shaped residential blocks of eight to 12 storeys will each be complemented by an identical set of buildings to the west. A recreational complex will be placed between them. Zone B will open in 2016; it is being built by Singapore-based Dragages, a member of the French Bouygues construction group. Future phases may include more apartment blocks. Eventually, developers expect this area to be able to house more than 20,000 people.

The development’s architecture and layout is so generic it could be anywhere in the world. The buildings’ star-shaped layout and similar orientation means many units ended up facing one another, rather than offering views of the lake and river. The use of central hallways prevents cross-ventilation for most units.

A canal separates the residences from the golf course

Despite these design shortcomings, the development is popular with the growing upper middle class. Construction quality is reportedly sound, and the apartments’ specifications are modern. A golf course partially surrounds the compound towards the undeveloped riverfront. Landscaped courtyards and tree-lined streets provide further greenery. Depending on their size and orientation, apartments sell from anywhere between 80,000 and 450,000 US dollars.

A ferry service will soon connect this site with central Yangon, reducing transit time. For now, the only road connection to Yangon is a two-lane highway that appears to be over capacity already. Despite the short distance, getting downtown can take up to one hour.

A tight arrangement of blocks makes the buildings face each other closely

Given the breakneck speed at which Yangon is developing, Star City is visionary in several aspects. For one, it heralds the development of the river’s opposite bank. Thanlyin and Yangon’s Dala township are natural expansion areas for Yangon. A major new bridge is expected to connect the latter with the downtown area in several years, bringing relief to the more than 30,000 daily commuters, but also causing a real estate frenzy in Dala. (For the time being Dala still feels like a world apart from Yangon. It is a popular tourist destination for day-long motorbike rides through the countryside.) Star City also suggests Yangon’s wealthy will prefer to live in these gated communities, commuting to their jobs in the centre or in Thilawa, and requiring ever-greater infrastructure investments to accommodate the resulting flow of traffic.