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With more than 40 years experience spearheading some of the biggest real estate developers in Thailand and Hong Kong, Chris Delaney is better placed than most to ponder on the current state of Thailand’s property market. Now leading the line at Sunplay Bangsaray, a high-end lifestyle community on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, he spoke to us about the benefits of being ahead of the game and targeting one of the region’s fastest-growing consumer markets: the over 50s.
1. How have buyer expectations changed over the years for luxury real estate in Thailand?
Consumers nowadays are well-informed and discerning. Having more high-end choices raises the bar for everyone, and competition has definitely improved the way developers approach the market. Product standards are therefore far more cosmopolitan than they were 10 years ago, which reflects current market expectations for sophistication, elegance, innovative design and superlative service.
2. What impact have these heightened expectations had on how developers approach projects?
Detailed research is necessary prior to determining target market segment requirements. Attention to detail in software resources, such as concierge services and discreet billing systems, is now paramount and represent the norm rather than the exception. Simply selecting talented architects and delivering high-end finishes are no longer sufficient; the end product must be as seamless an experience as a stay in a five-star hotel, with continuity guaranteed. Buyers need to trust that the lifestyle and services they invest in will be delivered consistently over time.
3. How do you balance targeting both local and international buyers and what are the biggest obstacles?
We are no longer in the business of selling bricks and mortar, but rather creating a lifestyle targeting a mature client base that values not only quality but also consistency and continuity. The little touches that say “welcome home” such as having the staff greet you by name and preparing your favourite flowers and foods in your residence before you arrive, are appreciated by all clients, whether local or international. Ultimately we all want the same things from a lifestyle investment – peace of mind, the feeling of being in a home away from home and knowing that we have made a sound investment.
4. Why is senior living finally taking off in Thailand and Southeast Asia?
People are living longer and staying healthier thanks to general awareness and advances in medical sciences. In this respect, Thailand is fortunate to have a favourable cost of living and world-class medical facilities, as well as being an excellent transportation hub. Add to that the outdoor sports-friendly climate and hospitality-minded Thai nature, and it is clear that the Kingdom ticks all the boxes for a very pleasant retirement. The Thai government recognises this growth trend, and now offers retirement visas catering specifically to this growing market.
5. How can developers capitalise on this trend?
Developer awareness of changing trends within the very broad retirement category and government initiatives to support industry growth will benefit those who catch the wave and respond to the changes in a timely manner.
Investing well on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard
From the paradisiacal islands in the Andaman Sea to the vibrant Eastern Seaboard, Thailand has long been regarded as Asia’s premier resort property destination. Nowadays, many affluent investors not only look for luxury real estate in a prime location, but also require amenities that support an action-packed lifestyle.
Whether for sport or fitness, personal development or health, relaxation or fun, Sunplay Bangsaray — an active lifestyle community for the over-50s located on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard with stunning views of the coast — provides plenty of lifestyle options complemented by a full range of modern luxury facilities. The onsite Sunplay Club features a superbly equipped fitness centre, yoga studio, and large freeform swimming pool.
Bangsaray is an emerging destination that offers a variety of activities and attractions for residents fond of watersports and physical activities, with 10 golf courses in the area, as well as multiple options for sailing, biking, running and hiking.
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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.
Reimagining mixed-use communities on Phuket
Located alongside Phuket’s prestigious Kamala Beach on the West Coast, MontAzure is one of the famed island’s most highly-anticipated real estate projects. With the Twinpalms-branded residences already proving very popular with investors, the community will soon welcome its anchor hotel, InterContinental Phuket Resort in 2019, in addition to a range of high-end restaurant and retail options. Plans were also announced last year to develop a THB3.5bn upmarket senior living village with dedicated facilities and amenities.
For more information on MontAzure, visit MontAzure.com