Bangkok is rediscovering its riverfront, but more could be done to benefit from it

Real Estate August 23, 2014 01:00

By Aliwassa Pathnadabutr

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This year, riverside locations became a hot spot for Bangkok developers with the launch of three condominium projects in different areas: Canapaya on Rama III, 333 Riverside on Pracharat Sai 1 Road, and the recently launched Magnolias Waterfront Residence

The record prices set by Magnolias Waterfront Residences have proved the popularity of riverfront developments among Thai and foreign buyers alike.
There has been growing interest in Bangkok’s riverside locations, and not only for residential condominiums. The trend of retail along the river was rediscovered with the conversion of old warehouses into what is now known as Asiatique The Riverfront, the hot spot for hanging out and tourist shopping. The latest launch of the multimillion-baht IconSiam project on Charoennakorn Road has affirmed the growing interest in riverfront developments. 
With the natural charm and beauty of the Chao Phraya River, such locations attract buyers from different areas of Bangkok. CBRE has also received inquiries from foreign buyers wanting to buy residential properties along the Chao Phraya, especially in the prime riverfront locations along Charoennakorn Road within a short distance of major five-star hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La, The Peninsula and Millennium Hilton. 
The Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula attract upmarket tourists and achieve the highest average room rates among the five-star hotels. 
In other major cities, waterfront properties in prime locations are of high value and always serve as a good investment. In addition, today’s popular tourist programmes include riverboat tours with tourist attractions and dinner cruises. But it seems that Bangkok does not make the best use of its riverfront.  
The most prime riverside location that could be transformed into a world-class tourist spot is along Charoenkrung Road from Asiatique to the Grand Palace. This route covers major five-star hotels, luxury condominiums, shopping malls, an old town, historic buildings, major temples, Chinatown, flower and vegetable markets and the Grand Palace. 
Opening up this area to the best use would require government support, as it would involve changing zoning and land-use regulations. This could not be done under the current city planning. 
To develop a new destination, the area should be treated as a special economic zone with development planning and tax benefits. This does not mean promoting only new developments; preserving historic buildings and the old town is even more crucial. Otherwise, land could be sold to develop high-rise buildings and Bangkok would lose the charm of the river. 
Zoning and other regulations in this area should be drafted allowing appropriate land use that will serve to balance the charm and beauty of river activities, historic buildings, low-rise, low-density development and modern buildings where appropriate. 
The park and boardwalk along the river should be developed for public use. 
Better transport with modern piers and ferries connecting to mass-transit stations and major roads would also increase the popularity of Bangkok’s riverfront. 
The location of new bridges crossing the river should also consider reasonable distance and the overall aesthetics of the river. 
With new developments in the pipeline, we will see further transformation of the Bangkok riverfront. The question is whether we can preserve the charm and beauty of the river together with achieving economic returns for investors.