Something’s moving inside Saigon Villas

(Photo by Ha Giang/Nguoi Viet)

If you thought you saw something moving inside the (former) condominium complex (formerly) known as Saigon Villas, you’d be right. And don’t worry, it’s just people checking out the place in its newest incarnation.

For years, that behemoth of a building on the side street next to Phước Lộc Thọ – or Asian Village Mall – has been a strange sight. It’s sitting there near empty, like an abandoned building, but is still well maintained, well lit, with the landscaping still fresh.

It’s just strangely quiet. Not eerily quiet – you can’t be eery when you’re well kept and shining brightly – just oddly lacking activities, standing still especially when compared to all the hustling and bustling that’s going on around it.

Old dog, new trick.

That’s because the huge edifice, built with 144 condo units in it, has sold only 8 when it was thrown into receivership in February. The receiver was appointed by the Orange County Superior Court in the lawsuit filed by the lender HSBC against the developer, Moran Properties Limited Partnership – an entity in which the owner of Asian Village Mall holds a significant interest.

The receiver apparently couldn’t sell either, even after a zoning change that lifted the “55 or older” requirement. So, as of last week he tried something new: He changed the development’s name to Jasmine Place, and is now renting out the units as apartments instead.

So far, it seems to be working. On Monday when Nguoi Viet’s reporter Hà Giang came by the rental office, one person was dropping off the deposit check, and two couples were seriously interested in the units.

The onsite agent bragged that even before the grand opening, the company successfully rented out 10 units. That’s more than what they sold for all the years before that.

The clincher seems to be price. Since rental cost has not dropped with real estate prices, the selling prices asked by the former Saigon Villas were too high. And they couldn’t be lowered because they had to make enough to repay construction lenders – plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The rental prices, currently ranging from $1510 for a small 1 bed 1 bath, to $2400 for a unit more than twice that size with 2 beds 2 baths with den, are only a bit higher than comparable rentals, and the premium is justified by location.

After all, the complex is next to Phước Lộc Thọ. It deserves to have life breathed back into it.

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6 Responses to Something’s moving inside Saigon Villas

  1. france thunderbird says:

    It was built for 55 and older seniors. What about the people who initially purchased this property under this requirement? Why don’t they sue?

  2. Bolsavik says:

    Because when the developer asked for a zone change to lift that requirement (I just added the reference to it), the 8 purchasers/condo owners signed a consent.

  3. HONKY says:


  4. francethunderbird says:

    The original 8 tenants are typical Vietnamese. They do not know how to stand up for their own rights. God dammit. They should of sued, but you see, Vietnamese, like other Asians, do not want to be part of the system and rock the boat. There is principal at stake here. I am sure those 55 and older Vietnamese who live there have no clue that they even have rights to sue. It’s a shame. In any case, let’s just hope nobody in that complex gets robbed because I am sure they will not call the authorities either. I am not bashing on Asians, rather, I want them not to get taken advantage of by other Asians, which is of course common and wide spread.

  5. Khanh Linh says:

    Xin nha` bao/ cho toi biet vi. bac si~ nay ten la` Chi hay ten la` Chi/ .
    Xin chan thanh cam on nha bao/ that nhieu.

    How One Vietnamese Immigrant Became Vice Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Chi Van Dang, M.D., Ph.D
    Vice Dean of Research, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    Baltimore, Maryland

    “It doesn’t matter to me what my children decide to do with their lives, as long as they serve the community.” -Dr. Dang

    It’s 4:30 p.m. on a cold and stormy Thursday afternoon in the Baltimore – Washington, DC area. Having received an e-mail from me only days earlier, Dr. Chi Van Dang graciously agreed to squeeze a last minute phone interview into his hectic schedule. “Maria?” he asked after picking up the phone. For some reason, I expected to encounter a hint of a Vietnamese accent, but found none.

    As he patiently answered my questions, he spoke with the clm, steady and confident voice of a knowledgeable physician. But Dr. Dang – who signs his e-mails as simply “Chi” – is no ordinary doctor. He is a medical oncologist to dozens of cancer patients, a professor to hundreds of medical students; mentor to scores of students, fellows, and junior faculty; and Vice Dean of Research at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. That is only the short list of his duties and accomplishments. Below is a profile of a good man responding to a strong calling to be a healer and whose contributions to the medical community have reverberated throughout the world.

    Uprooted beginnings
    Chi Van Dang, age 56, was born in Saigon as one of 10 children. His father, the late Dr. Dang Van Chieu, was Viet Nam’s first neurosurgeon and the Dean of the University of Saigon School of Medicine. When he was twelve years old in 1967, Dr. Dang’s parents sent him and his brother, Chuc, to live with an American sponsoring family in Flint, Michigan. The brothers were reunited with their family in 1975, when the entire family immigrated to the U.S. after the end of the war. Since then, he has graduated from prestigious universities with the highest of honors, including the University of Michigan for his undergraduate degree, Georgetown University for his doctoral degree in chemistry, and Johns Hopkins University for his medical degree. It was at Johns Hopkins where Dr. Dang as a young medical intern, met the love of his life, Mary. They married a few years after that.

    Through the years, Chi Van Dang has risen through the ranks at Johns Hopkins from being an assistant professor to landing tenure as professor of medicine, oncology, pathology, and cell biology. He is the first recipient of the John Hopkins Family Professorship of Oncology Research. In addition, Dr. Dang is the Vice Dean of Research at John Hopkins School of Medicine. As member of the top leadership at an internationally-recognized university, Chi Van Dang is the highest ranking physician of Vietnamese descent in academic medicine worldwide. In May 2005, he received the Golden Torch Award at the Vietnamese American National Gala (VANG), which honored the progress and significant achievements made by Vietnamese Americans.

    Along with his leadership roles, Dr. Dang serves as mentor to numerous graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty who work in his research lab in hematology and oncology. In our conversation, he shared the two key ingredients to success that he teaches all his students and advisees. “You must have passion,” he emphasized. “You must enjoy what you are doing and feel that it is your calling.” The second crucial factor is focus. “Focus is extremely important” – as we are all limited by time, an individual’s focus will help him find the answer to his question or problem.

    Q & A with Dr. Dang

    BN: At 12 years old, your parents sent you and your brother to the US to live with an American foster family. What do you remember as your first thoughts and feelings about this new arrangement and new culture?
    CVD: As a young boy, the whole adventure was a whirlwind of new and good experiences. In fact, we developed neighborhood friendships that last to the present. The neighbors, particularly the Landaals in Flint, Michigan, have become our very dearest friends. Tom and Steve Landaal introduced us (my brother Chuc and me) to American culture. The most remarkable thing about landing at the Detroit and Flint airport in late March then was the first sight of my breath against the cold air.

    BN: What was it like to see your family again in 1975 when they all immigrated to the US?
    CVD: It was a blessing to see the entire family making it out of Viet Nam, enduring the refugee camps, and then settling in California.

    BN: When was the last time you visited Viet Nam?
    CVD: My brother and I were fortunate to return to Viet Nam in 1969 for about a month during the summer that the US landed a man on the moon. I haven’t been back since.

    BN: In your free time, you said you like to attend your children’s soccer and lacrosse games and also cook. What is your favorite dish to cook and eat?
    CVD: My wife, Mary, who is a native Baltimorean, is a very good cook when it comes to Vietnamese food. I would serve as the sous-Chef. She makes the best pho as well as other dishes using lemon grass.

    BN: If you weren’t a healer/oncologist/professor/vice dean/medical superstar at Johns Hopkins, what would you be doing?
    CVD: Deep in the crevices of my mind, I dream of the serenity and bucolic existence as a country doctor.

    BN: What do you want most to be remembered for?
    CVD: Like my father, I wish to be remembered first and foremost as a teacher and compassionate healer.

    BN: Okay, some free medical advice please. What is the one thing that people can start doing today to improve their long-term health?
    CVD: Exercise! Not only the advice is free, but exercise can also be free.

  6. Jung Kim says:

    This is a great story!

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