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When One Bangkok opens in downtown Bangkok in 2021, it will be the most expensive real estate project in Thai history. Spread out across 18 hectares of land adjacent to Lumphini Park, the USD3.5 billion development covers an area one third the size of the park itself, yet encompasses living and work space for 60,000 people.
Crowned by a soaring, gold-hued skyscraper of some 90 storeys, One Bangkok’s components feature five office towers, five hotels, three residential buildings, four retail zones and space for arts and cultural performances, in addition to publicly accessible parks and green spaces.
It represents mixed-use development at its most ambitious: vertical, horizontal, and unrestrained by city zoning concepts that governed urban planning for most of the 20th century.
In Singapore, the soon-to-open Marina One residential and office development adds a tropical, green heart to the CBD in the form of a 65,000-square-foot garden designed in collaboration between Ingenhoven Architects and landscape specialists ICN Design.
Meanwhile in Manila, One Bonificio provides the new headquarters for the Philippine Stock Exchange and also a luxury condominium with 289 units and a Shangri-La hotel, all connected to the existing Bonificio High Street – itself a retail-focused mixed-use development.
In Xi’an, China, the 320-metre-tall OCT XI'AN International Center (OXIC) presents a vertical design solution that sees parks, piazza-style common areas and even terrace streets positioned over multiple stories of two skyscrapers.
“Vertical communities often deal with the high density mandated for many Asian city centres,” says the architect behind OXIC, Ping Jiang. The Shanghai-based design principal at EID architecture firm won an international competition to design OXIC in September 2017.
“In contrast to sprawling development, vertical communities create synergy between different uses and foster dynamic neighbourhoods. By integrating business, leisure, retail and residential space, the design of a vertical community is strategically organised to create a vibrant, permeable urban destination to live, work and visit.”
It’s not only in urban areas, however, where ambitious mixed-use projects are breaking the mould. Back in Thailand on the tree-lined shores of Phuket’s Kamala Beach, the THB2.2 billion luxury MontAzure development in beginning to take shape.
The 454-rai mixed-use project is set to comprise a comprehensive roster of upscale amenities, including hotel-managed condos, a lifestyle mall, a 200-room InterContinental Hotel, and Cafe del Mar, which is already part of the development's unique beachfront attractions. It also recently announced the addition of Kamala Senior Living, a luxury retirement community geared towards leisure-oriented, high-net-worth homeowners.
"Developers are realising that if they build a core concept it adds value to the project, rather than simply selling parcels of land," says Martin Palleros, founder and director of Tierra Design and the architect behind The Residences at MontAzure.
"It's all about what you can offer the community, and not just in terms of the property components," he adds. "It could be lagoon-style water features, hiking trails or direct beachfront access, in the case of MontAzure."
While mixed-use communities across the region have emerged as the new development paradigm, the trend has its roots in ancient history.
Tightly packed, walled medieval villages pioneered living conditions that can be witnessed in modern mixed-use, with residents, shops, churches and public amenities all crammed into a compact space. Today the same concept applied vertically challenges traditional urban zoning restrictions that see cities segregated into residential, retail and business quarters.
Real estate analyst JLL has long been predicting the proliferation of mixed-use projects throughout the region, as developers look to maximise land use while diversifying assets.
“As cities become more developed and densities become higher, it makes sense to build more mixed-use developments,” says Regina Lim, head of capital markets research, Southeast Asia, whose recently released report, New Urban Models in a Youthful Southeast Asia, details the value developers are placing on mixed-use schemes that are designed to attract public foot traffic.
“Mixed-use developments bring together complementary uses,” she continues. “Retail shops benefit from the natural catchment of offices or hotels or apartments while the residents and workers enjoy the convenience. As maintenance management schemes become more sophisticated, they allow effective property management of these integrated projects. Apartments with these amenities sell well.”
The future of mixed-use development will increasingly be dictated by the demands of the wider public. Ping Jiang points to the role that public interaction with multiple-use development plays in bringing life to central city locations outside of business hours.
“The future of mixed-use development is about the spatial and experiential quality of space,” he says. “Not only will we increasingly see mixed-use take over from dedicated office or retail blocks, but also more innovative uses, maybe a new type of hybrid project varied in scale and its mix of functions.”
Youth consumer behaviour will also dictate the multi-functionality of urban space, a trend that will increasingly enter the mixed-use urban space.
“Young consumers with strong spending power and a taste for the eclectic are inspiring unconventional shopping malls across Southeast Asia,” Lim of JCC says. “Some incorporate cycling tracks and a ‘tree of life’ within the building, while others exhibit a FIFA-qualified soccer field and Olympic-size skating rink.”
Successful mixed-use schemes have the capacity to create diverse, vibrant communities in which people can live, work and socialise. They can bring round-the-clock life to central business districts and provide private land parcels with pedestrian-friendly solutions to previously abandoned or underused areas. Whether such projects succeed however depends as much on unit sales as it does on the lifestyle opportunities they introduce.
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Just a couple of years ago, few people could have pointed to Bangsaray on a map of Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard. Even those well acquainted with its much noisier neighbour, Pattaya, would have struggled to locate the sleepy coastal town situated only 20 kilometres south of the country’s liveliest beach resort.
While Pattaya – itself nothing more than a backwater fisherman’s village 40 years ago – is now one of Thailand’s most in-demand tourist and real estate investment destinations, Bangsaray has largely been overlooked. This, however, is gradually beginning to change.
Bangsaray’s blossoming appeal primarily hinges on its natural attractions and lifestyle amenities. The area is home to dozens of golf courses, 20 of which rank among the top PGA courses in Thailand. The calm waters around Bangsaray, meanwhile, are a rolling invitation to engage in sailing and various watersports. Biking, running and hiking routes also abound in the area.
“As a destination, Bangsaray is mostly unspoilt by high-rise buildings and large hotels; it retains a unique quaintness and fishing village charm, with great beaches and seafood restaurants,” says Chris Delaney, managing director of Sunplay Asia, the property developer behind the 28-hectare (175 rai) Sunplay Bangsaray project.
Part of the kingdom’s 20-year national strategy, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Thailand’s biggest economic zone to date, will strengthen Bangsaray’s links to the larger world. Around THB1.5 trillion (USD43 billion) in infrastructure projects are slated for the zone, including the expansion of the U-Tapao International Airport and the construction of a high-speed railway between Bangkok and nearby Rayong, hailed Asia’s “Small City of the Future” by the Financial Times’ FDI Intelligence unit.
Set to become Thailand’s third largest airport, U-Tapao will reduce the area’s dependence on Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi. Early projections claim passenger arrivals could surpass 3 million in the next few years.
“Given the planned infrastructure improvements around Bangsaray, there is no doubt that land prices will climb, most probably at a higher rate than many other areas in the kingdom,” says Tim Skevington, founder and CEO of Landscope Thailand, an affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate.
Beachfront land in Bangsaray has increased by as much as 225 percent over the last 15 years, according to Clayton Wade, managing director of Pattaya-based real estate agency Premier Homes. A 3-rai beachfront parcel now lists at about THB30 million baht per rai, compared with THB7 to THB8 million in 2002.
“This is one of the most positive aspects of Bangsaray’s rise as a boutique resort hot spot,” Wade says. “Land prices in Pattaya, Jomtien and Na Jomtien went up even higher over the same period but Bangsaray hung in there with some very attractive land price increases.”
Skevington believes the high-end residential property segment will find its niche first in Bangsaray. Sunplay Asia’s expansive Sunplay Bangsaray project is a prime example of a new development already piquing the interest of local and overseas investors.
Sunplay The Heights, the 12,500-square-metre complex of condominiums that makes up the first phase of the Sunplay Bangsaray project, is already on the market with unit prices ranging from THB9 million to THB35 million (USD270,000-1m).
“As a high-end development, and an environmentally friendly, low-rise community, Sunplay will undoubtedly have a positive effect on land prices in the Bangsaray area,” Skevington adds.
The project includes The Sunplay Club, a multi-purpose private facility that includes an expansive pool, fine-dining restaurant, bar, deli, and café. Sunplay The Heights Bangsaray is expected to be completed by 2018, while a private gated community of pool villas is due for a 2020 finish.
“Judging by current demand, partially due to the developing EEC zone, we expect investors to see returns of 4 percent for the first three years until stabilisation, rising up to 6 percent thereafter,” Delaney says.
While it is built ideally for property seekers of a certain age, Sunplay Bangsaray is actively courting those who lead active lifestyles, with a wide range of amenities including a fitness centre, yoga studio, and a network of jogging paths. “Today’s over 50s are more active and adventurous than ever before; they won’t simply settle for a quiet retirement – they want to maximise their new-found leisure time, meet like-minded people and learn new skills,” Delaney adds.
Thailand is one of the ripest markets for retirement living. By 2040, the kingdom will be home to 17 million people aged 65 years or older, one of the highest ratios of elderly inhabitants to the general populace in Asia, according to the World Bank. Bangsaray has been luring a “large and growing” retirement market from Europe, Delaney says.
Even though demographic upheavals have led to an uptick in the development of retirement communities in Thailand’s resort areas, Sunplay Bangsaray remains a standout, according to Skevington.
“Many such communities are located further away from Bangkok, and from the international airport, and therefore not as easily accessible as Sunplay Bangsaray,” he says.
Longer-term visas for expatriates make Bangsaray even more appealing to international property purchasers. The Thai government this year made foreigners from 14 countries eligible for a 10-year retirement visa. Better access to healthcare also makes Bangsaray a sensible retirement destination, the area is home to a growing list of hospitals and clinics.
“It will be retirees whom investors will eventually want to sell or rent their Bangsaray properties to,” Wade says.
“I predicted in 2007 that Bangsaray would evolve from a sleepy fishing village image to a top Thailand boutique resort in 10 years. Well, it’s been 10 years and we haven’t quite gotten there yet but Bangsaray is well on its way.”
Even though Bangsaray is a long way from reaching Pattaya levels of brand recall, emerging infrastructural connections between the towns, as well as nearby Rayong, look set to fast-track this once overlooked enclave on the Eastern Seaboard to become an internationally renowned resort destination.
With all roads literally leading to it, the future looks bright for Bangsaray.