Phnom Penh warehouse demand increases

Thu, 22 May 2014

3_Demand-for-warehouse-space-is-up-10-to15-per-cent-year-on-yearDemand for warehouse space rose over the first five months of 2014, according to local property experts.

The managing director of Town Real Estate Company, Van Chanthorn, said demand for warehouse space increased in some areas compared with the same period last year, adding that his company had received many requests for warehouse storage.

The areas that are most in demand, Chanthorn said, are Chamkar Doung, Chorm Chao, Veng Sreng and along national roads 3 and 4.

“The average size of requested warehouse space ranges from 3,000 to 6,000 square metres,” he said, adding that the average price per square metre was $1.80 per month, with leases averaging three years.

Chanthorn said he expects demand to continue to trend upwards once ASEAN economic integration got under way late next year.

“Warehouse demand will likely double due to the number of investors coming to Cambodia,” he said.

Sear Chailin, CEO of CL Realty, agreed that warehouse demand increased in the first five months of the year. Demand was strongest in areas such as Veng Sreng and Chorm Chao, with customers seeking storage space of 300 to 800 square metres, while space on the outskirts of town tended to average 1,000 to 3,000 square metres, he said.

According to Chailin, the contract periods for warehouse leases ranged from three to 10 years. He added that the market price for warehouse space started at an average of between $1.80 and $2.20 per square metre, depending on location, size, adjacent roads and water and electric supply.

“Lease contracts are for at least three years and for a maximum of 10 years, and the contracts were very important, allowing transparency for tenants and owners, particularly for tenants in terms of utilisation of the warehouse space,”
he said.

On the question of tenants, Chailin said they were a mixture of local and international businesspeople.

Cambodia Trust Real Estate director Oum Vutha said demand for warehouse space had increased 10 to 15 per cent in the first five months of this year compared with the same period of 2013. Vutha attributed the surge to new companies participating in the Cambodian market.

Warehouse prices in Phnom Penh proper average $1.60 to $1.80 per square metre a month, while prices on the outskirts of town average around $1.20 per square metre, he said, adding that demand was highest for warehouse space averaging between 3,000 and 4,000 square metres, with clients occasionally demanding larger spaces of 7,000 to 8,000 square metres.

“The areas in which we are seeing the greatest demand are in Stueng Meanchey, Chorm Chao and Veng Sreng – despite higher prices – due to ease of transport and because warehouse standards tended to be higher in those areas, with better water and electricity supply and offices included,” he said.

“If the political situation in Cambodia does not worsen, warehouse demand will likely increase with ASEAN integration,” he said.Read Original text

Chroy Changvar Satellite City groundwork nears completion

Read Original textThu, 22 May 2014

2_Sand-filling-for-the-Chroy-Changvar-Satellite-City-project-is-80-per-cent-completed,-according-to-OCIC-sourcesThe pumping of sand and filling in of lakes and marshy areas prone to flooding, with the eventual aim of creating the Chroy Changvar Satellite City, will be completed in the fourth quarter, according to Overseas Cambodian Investment Company (OCIC) sources associated with the development.

Meanwhile, the sources said, work to settle disputes involving current residents of to-be-developed land was under way and under the jurisdiction of the Phnom Penh municipal government.

The satellite city, which has already received $1.6 billion in investment, is planned to cover an area of 387 hectares.

OCIC project manager Touch Samnang said that 80 per cent of the sand required to lay the groundwork for the satellite city had already been pumped into place, and that the OCIC planned to complete the pumping work by October. Municipal authorities were working step by step to resolve ongoing issues related to compensation and the provision of housing, as well as making market stalls available through the means of a lottery.

“The satellite city project will see an investment of $1.6 billion. The city development is similar to Diamond Island [Koh Pich], but we are yet to come up with a blueprint that makes the project’s image clear,” he said, adding that it could take more than 20 years for the project to be completely finished.

Municipal authorities are dealing with land issues.

Municipal authorities are dealing with land issues. Hong Menea

Infrastructure projects associated with the development would include a 6-kilometre main road and a new bridge (to complement the Chroy Changvar Bridge, currently under construction), connecting the satellite city with National Road 5.

“The location of the satellite city is between two rivers [the Tonle Sap and the Mekong] and close to Phnom Penh, and there is currently nowhere with so much land next to the city,” he said.

The satellite city falls within three communes in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district – Chroy Changvar, Prek Leap, and Prek Ta Sek.

Chief of Chroy Chongvar commune, Pech Sarern, said there are 55 plots of land affected by the project, but that disputes over 20 of these plots had already been resolved through compensation. The remainder, he said, were still subject to negotiations with municipal authorities.

Prek Leap commune chief Preap Mony said solutions to problems associated with families living in the commune were moving forward, and 11 families had won lucky draws for new homes and market stalls, while seven families were close to completing negotiations with municipal authorities.

He added that negotiations had been peaceful and that no forced relocations would take place.

The general manager of VMC Real Estate Cambodia, Dith Channa, said Chroy Changvar had a lot of potential because the bridge connections would make for easy access to downtown Phnom Penh, while the city would also be far enough away to offer fresh air, comfort and an overall good living environment. He added that by the time such a big project was well and truly under way, it would attract many residents.

Channa admitted that price and the quality of infrastructure and amenities would be factors in terms of attracting people to buy into the area, but still stressed that it offered great potential.Read Original text

De Castle Royal partners with The Place for first-class gym workout

Thu, 29 May 2014

2_Property-manager-Nimol-Mam-says-The-Place’s-management-of-De-Castle-Royal’s-gym-guarantees-luxury-standards-for-residentsThe management of the 32-storey De Castle Royal condominium project in BKK1 has announced that the The Place, widely regarded as Phnom Penh’s only independent five-star gym, will manage the development’s fitness centre.

This means the air-conditioned De Castle Royal gym will be fully fitted out with state-of-the-art equipment supplied by Italy’s Technogym, which Alexandre Vessella, The Place’s gym manager, described to the Post in an interview late last year as “the best sports equipment brand on the market”.

De Castle Royal will feature a rooftop garden with panoramic city views.

De Castle Royal will feature a rooftop garden with panoramic city views. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Place will also manage De Castle Royal’s 25-metre swimming pool, says property manager Nimol Mam, who adds that the pool will be built to the same dimensions as the one at The Place, which is located at No 11 Street 51, and will also include a poolside garden.

“With management by The Place, we can guarantee high-class service, operations and maintenance, making it the perfect place for our members to work out or simply relax by the pool,” Mam says.

In the fourth-floor gym, personal trainers will be on hand to help De Castle Royal customise workout regimens according to every individual’s needs. Instructor-led activities such as yoga will also be available.

The most anticipated five-star condominium development in Phnom Penh, De Castle Royal’s 32 storeys include seven floors reserved for parking and will also feature a rooftop garden perched on the summit of the 117-metre building.

“The rooftop garden will have flowers, plants and shrubbery, making it a perfect place to relax and enjoy views of the city,” Mam says, adding that guests will be able to order food and refreshments from a “brand name” coffee chain yet to be announced that will operate in the building.

The soon-to-open condominium project’s gym will be managed by The Place.

The soon-to-open condominium project’s gym will be managed by The Place. PHOTO SUPPLIED

According to De Castle Royal developer Nuri D&C, some 90 per cent of the condominium development’s 414 units have already been sold, and the company recently announced a leaseback program for the remaining three-bedroom units.

The latest Market View report by CBRE Cambodia Research cited De Castle Royal as a leading factor in the return of confidence to the Phnom Penh condominium sector, in particular for off-plan developments.

“De Castle Royal has been successful in attracting significant foreign interest, due both to the calibre of the building and the strong rate of return that investors can expect to achieve,” the report says.

Nuri D&C has yet to put a fixed date on the opening of De Castle Royal, but Mam says that the amenities and interior fittings are all now close to completion and residents will be able to take occupancy in the coming months.

“Our facilities – everything from the gym and swimming pool to the rooftop garden – are everything you need for a modern lifestyle in Phnom Penh’s most fashionable quarter of town,” Mam says.Read Original text

First phase of Olympia City condo project set for completion in mid-2015

Thu, 15 May 2014

2_The-four-condominium-towers-of-Olympia-City-are-on-schedule-for-completion-by-mid-2015,-says-the-developer,-with-the-majority-of-buyers-coming-from-overseasThe first phase of the Olympia City condominium project will be completed in mid-2015, according to the developers.

Meng Chamroeun, chief engineer for the Olympia City development, says construction work on the four 21-floor condominium towers is under way day and night. The most furthest along of the four towers is already at 14 storeys and is scheduled to reach full height in November. The second building is at 10 floors, the third at four and the fourth at two floors.

“The four condo-minium towers are slated for completion in mid-2015. And then we’ll start work on a seven-storey super mall,” he says.

However, Chamroeun adds that, as yet, there is no firm date for completion of the mall, or for construction work to begin on 44- and 55-storey towers combining condominiums, office space and a hotel.

The Olympia City Project located at the northern end of the National Olympic Stadium is a $400 million investment by the Overseas Cambo-dian Investment Corpor-ation (OCIC). The seven-hectare project got under way in 2012, and overall completion of the project is scheduled for 2017.

Olympia City sales manager Long Sopheak says sales of units in the condominium tower were going well, with the majority of buyers coming from overseas – chiefly China, Singapore and Malaysia. Some 95 per cent of the units in Tower 1 have already been sold, he said, while Tower 2 has seen 75 per cent of its units sold. Tower 3 has so far seen no sales, but 30 per cent of the units in Tower 4 are spoken for, Sopheak says.

Olympia City’s condominiums come in three varieties. Studio units start from $88,000 to $92,000, one-bedroom units are priced from $88,000 to $94,000, while two-bedroom units range from $220,000 to $230,000.

All Olympia City condominiums are located on the sixth to 21st floors, with the basements to fifth floors reserved for shophouses.

Construction at Olympia City, which is slated for overall completion in 2017.

Construction at Olympia City, which is slated for overall completion in 2017. PHOTO SUPPLIED

According to Sopheak, Olympia City’s success in terms of sales so far is due to the project’s huge potential, and its downtown location, with ready access to all destinations in central Phnom Penh. She adds that the development’s amenities, such as the mall, office space, shopping and gardens with walking paths, were also a factor in the project’s success.

“We’re very much focused now on accelerating the pace of construction, and payment conditions are relatively easy for our clients, and these are other factors in our success,” she adds.

Olympia City is one of a host of major property developments that are set to change the Phnom Penh skyline.

Po Eavkong, managing director of Asia Real Estate Cambodia, says he does not expect sales of condominiums to be a problem in the local market due to anticipated demand ahead of and after Asean economic integration next year, but he adds that there is some risk of oversupply.

Whether the project will be a complete success or not won’t be clear until the project is complete and it is known what percentage of the total has been sold, he says, adding: “Condominium prices at Olympia City are competitive with prices for units in other developments around town.”Read Original text

Boutique furnishing for the perfect home

Thu, 15 May 2014

4_Decosy_0Decosy, a 240-square-metre space on St 19, caters basically to every interior-design home need imaginable – from mugs and other tableware to polished acacia dining tables and even cots for babies.

“We’ve got a special product line for infants – toddler -height tables and desks, as well as the cots – and we’re one of the only people in town who are doing it,” says Nathalie Lèbre, manager, Decosy.

French-born Lèbre has been in Phnom Penh-based for 12 years now, and is best known as the woman behind Coleurs d’Asie, a handicrafts and textile home-products store that now runs under new management close by on St 240.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

“It was time for a change,” says Lèbre, who took up management of Decosy a little over a month ago after taking a year off.

If an item is not in stock, Lèbre says it can be ordered, but she warns that containers of the home products, which are all designed and made in Vietnam, generally only arrive every six to eight weeks.

Decosy was founded in 2000 in Ho Chi Minh City by Frenchman Nicolas Malric, who had been manufacturing wooden and iron furniture for export for some seven years. The Phnom Penh branch opened 10 years later in 2010, and is one of the few truly boutique – yet affordable – furniture outlets in the city.

“In the beginning our clientele was mostly ex-pats, and some Cambodians who had returned from overseas and whose tastes had been influenced by their lives there,” says Lèbre. Today that is changing. “We’re seeing more and more local people coming to the store to decorate their homes,” she says.

Business has largely been driven by word of mouth, according to Lèbre, who adds that sales encompass not only home décor but also offices and, in some cases, restaurants and hotels.

The tastefully designed wooden tables, desks and beds are made of acacia, which as Lèbre points out, might not be as well known as, say, teak, but is a fast-growing hardwood, making it not only a sustainable wooden furniture option but also perfect for a wide variety of climates.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

“Acacia is an eco-friendly wood,” says Lèbre. Trees that are cut down to make furniture grow back much faster than most of the better known, and more expensive varieties used in the furniture business.

“Unlike a lot of other woods, you can export any of our acacia furniture products to, for example, a damp, cold climate, and it won’t affect the wood in anyway,” she says. “It doesn’t crack or change shape.”

Even if you’re not in the market for a stylish kitchen table or a cupboard, Decosy, which is next door to Open Wine on St 19, is worth a visit for its wide collection of inexpensive coffee mugs and other tableware.

#291, St 19, Phnom Penh Tel: 023 219 253. Read Original text

Condo sales to foreigners on the rise

Thu, 15 May 2014

3_Condominium-sales-to-foreigners-are-up-10-to-15-per-cent-so-far-this-yearForeign homebuyers have purchased about 1,200 condominium units so far this year, a 10 to 15 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

The deputy head of Bonna Realty Group’s research department, Hin Socheat, said most of the buyers were from Singapore, Malaysia, China and Japan.

“Revisions to the laws on foreign ownership of properties are helping to boost development in the property sector,” he said.

“The ownership regulations are making foreigners more confident about buying properties in Cambodia, because the rules allow them to own property with a hard title issued by Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.”

Condominiums in central Phnom Penh average at between $1,500 and $2,800 per square metre, while prices on the city outskirts averaged at between $700 and $1,000 per square metre, said Socheat, noting that prices varied according to the quality of construction, the height of the building and its exterior and interior design.

According to Socheat, oversupply was not a problem in the Cambodian property market due to the large number of investors eying the Kingdom as a growth economy.

Kuy Vat, president and CEO of Vtrust Group, agreed that the condominium market in Cambodia was gradually acquiring traction due to the interest of overseas investors. Japanese and Chinese buyers in particular, he said, were interested in condominiums because prices in central Phnom Penh were about a sixth of those in first-tier cities in Japan and China.

According to Vat, few local buyers were interested in condominiums largely due to the fact that land was still available for sale on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. But he added that this was a trend he expected to change over the next five years.

“The turning point will be when land for sale becomes scarce or too expensive, forcing local people to consider condominiums,” he said, adding that more major condominium projects were expected to come on tap with the Asean economic integration late next year.

“More foreigners will come to Cambodia, and they tend to live in condominiums and apartments,” he said.

The general manager of Cam Top Property Group, Khat Sovann, concurred that most foreigners who were buying condominiums in Cambodia were from China, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. He said some bought them to live in, while others bought them to lease out and sell in the future. Most local buyers, he said, purchased condominiums to lease out and make income on rent.

“Cambodia’s not suffering from oversupply of condos, even though there are a number of big projects under way, because we’re expecting increased numbers of foreigners to come here between 2016 and 2018,” he said. “I think that the market will be performing very well by 2018-2020 because a lot of major projects will be completed by that time.”

Report sees increasing foreign investment in industrial sector

Thu, 8 May 2014

4_As-China-becomes-increasingly-uncompetitive-for-off-shore-manufacturing,-Cambodia-stands-to-gain,-if-supply-at-industrial-parks-and-SEZs-can-be-maintainedThe latest CBRE Cambodia Market View on the industrial market is upbeat about investment in the Kingdom, despite frequently touted political risks.

“Cambodia remains an attractive destination for industrial work and operations, with low inflation rates of 2.9 per cent and comparatively low minimum wages,” says the April report. “Cambodia’s industrial output grew by 9.5 per cent over the course 2013, the 17th highest industrial growth rate globally and above the wider Cambodian GPD of 7.3 per cent.”

“Cambodia’s becoming an attractive proposition, and more investors in the industrial sector are looking at it as a viable alternative,” says Phil Scott, CBRE Cambodia surveyor and one of the authors of the report.

The report notes that the country’s principle exports are “clothing, timber, tobacco, cassava, fish and rice”, with a total export value of $6.8 billion in 2013, up from $6.0 billion in 2012.

Meanwhile, as factory rents continued to see steady gains in China, rents in Cambodia have remained stable, commanding an average of $2.50 per square metre in prime industrial zones, and an average of $2 per square metre in less developed industrial zones.

Nevertheless, the report notes, supply of prime, developed industrial-zone land remains tight in Cambodia, holding development back.

Rents and labour costs are making Cambodia an attractive manufacuring proposition.

Rents and labour costs are making Cambodia an attractive manufacuring proposition. Hong Menea

“There remains a distinct lack in the supply of industrial units, as occupancy levels in existing industrial parks continue to remain high,” the report states, adding that tenants of special economic zones (SEZs)tend to hold onto long-lease terms once they have tailored their units to their needs.

According to the government Council for the Development of Cambodia, countrywide there are currently some 22 SEZs either in use or under development, but most are still only under consideration, and only a limited number are operational and attractive to foreign investors, says Scott.

Meanwhile, the CBRE report also notes that rising labour costs in China are putting cost pressure on manufacturers there and making Cambodia, look more attractive to Japanese, and even Chinese manufacturers.

“Increasing labour costs in China and Japan continue to drive the demandfor industrial property within Cambodia,” the report says.“In addition … increased minimum wages for factory workers in Thailand may in the future prompt cross-border relocations into established industrial zones in the north and west of Cambodia.”

According to Scott, major automotive businesses are already increasingly manufacturing parts in Cambodia for assembly in Thailand, a trend he maintains is likely to continue to gain traction, given the political impasse in Thailand, which continues to confound attempts at resolution and could possibly worsen ahead of and after new elections slated for July.

Cambodia’s SEZs, as a result, are already seeing significantly increased numbers of Japanese and Chinese tenants, according to CBRE, which notes that Sihanoukville is particularly well placed as an alternative to Thailand.

“The opportunities to relocate to Cambodia in search of better production prospects are supported bythe improving infrastructure, in particular the deep-sea port of Sihanoukville and its neighbouring economic zone. Sihanoukville also has the perceived advantage of being outside of any future political unrest in the capital,” the report says.

The report includes the caveat that Cambodia needs to stay on track in terms of supply for foreign manufacturing needs.

“The supply of industrial units will be a key influential factor in the growth of Cambodia’s economy, ensuring that foreign direct investment can continue to drive the markets.”

Meanwhile, according to Scott, the gradual shift of production to Cambodia is already having an impact on the office and residential property sectors.

“We’re already seeing on a knock-on effect from industrial occupiers relocating and expanding in Cambodia, requiring additional office and residential accommodation for their staff and operations,” he says.Read Original text

Tenants begin occupation of Phnom Penh’s ‘tower of glass’

Thu, 8 May 2014

3_Vatannak-Capital-TowerVattanac Capital Tower, a long-anticipated gleaming tower that dominates the city’s skyline from Monivong Boulevard, continues to attract tenants to its commercial office space.

The most recent tenants to occupy the building are Qatar Airways and investment company One Asia Capital, with Qatar occupying 180 square metres of office space and One Asia Capital taking 262 square metres.

Philip Scott, surveyor at CBRE Cambodia, calls the tower Phnom Penh’s most prestigious commercial space and a development of “unrivalled quality with an exclusive mixture of Grade A offices and luxury retail.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Vattanac still does not have an official date for the opening of its retail podium, but sources confirmed that the first retail outlet to open would be UK-based Costa Coffee, which already has several branches in Phnom Penh, and is edging towards 3,000 branches worldwide.

Offices need nearby coffee shops, quipped Scott, who added that Vattanac’s basement-two car parking was fully functional. And while there was still some evidence of finishing work in the general area around the tower, the office space in Tower 1 was fully open and available for tenants, with Schindler Lifts and architectural, engineering consultants Arup, and Vattanac Bank poised to move in.

“This year we have more office space coming onto the Phnom Penh market than ever, and what that means is that we have achieved office market segmentation, giving current and future tenants much broader scope in terms of office choice,” Scott said

He added that current office supply in Phnom Penh, the best of which CBRE rates as Grade B+, is already full, and Vattanac’s entry to the market would set new benchmarks in terms of design, technology and environmental sustainability.

The tower’s first tenant, Vattanac Capital, took up occupation of 240 square metres of office space in early March, with a complete operations team whose job was to ensure that the office space was ready for business.

Twenty-three floors of the 39-storey Tower 1 are allocated to office space, with the remaining floors taken by luxury international hotel chain Rosewood Hotels and Resorts.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Due to open in 2015, the Rosewood will have 175 rooms and suites (as well as long-term lease apartments), and a sky deck that features unparalleled sprawling views of Phnom Penh.

Scott says, the building management system will ensure smooth operation of the building, which features an energy-saving insulated-glass unit (IGU) glazing system on the building’s façade.

“It’s the safest and most secure building in Phnom Penh,” Scott said, adding that the state-of-the-art elevator system provided by Swiss Schindler Elevator is also the most sophisticated of its kind in Cambodia, guaranteeing a wait of no more than 35 seconds for a four-metres-per-second ascent to any floor in the building.

The 188-metre Vattanac Tower was designed by TFP Farrells, and is LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design)Silver precertified, but is aiming for Gold certification, which would make it a member of a relatively small club of office spaces worldwide that meet the highest standards required by the United States Green Building Council.

“This is a great product, and we’re excited to watch the office space fill up with clients that want a premier location and a premium office from which to manage their Cambodia operations and establish themselves within a frontier market,” Scott said.Read Original text

Bridge project equals prospects for Phnom Penh satellite city

Thu, 8 May 2014

5_Just-11-km-south-of-Phnom-Penh,-Ta-Khmau-CityGrowth in the property sector has been slow in Kandal province’s Ta Khmau City, 11 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, but that, industry sources say, is likely to change due to improvements to National Road 1 and the fact that the Ta Khmau Bridge is now completed.

Van Chanthon, managing director of Town City Company, says Ta Khmau city has developed slowly, but that is expected to change because the Ta Khmau Bridge connects to National Road 1, making it possible to bypass Phnom Penh when travelling to Takeo, Kampot, and Sihanoukville.

“I think that if Ta Khmau becomes a transit point, it will become a place where people park and take a rest from their travels, and that will lead to an increase in travel amenities such as restaurants and hotels,” he says. “Samdech Decho Boulevard and the satellite city (AZ CITY) development in the Choeung Ek area of Ta Khmau take part to push the development.”

Kuy Vat, president and CEO of Vtrust Group, notes that despite substantial increases in property transactions and prices in Phnom Penh, immovable property prices in Ta Khmau have seen increases of just 5 to 10 per cent.

Some investors see Ta Khmau as a possible ‘transit point’.

Some investors see Ta Khmau as a possible ‘transit point’. Pha Lina

Meanwhile, Kim Heang, president of Khmer Real Estate says land prices in Ta Khmau had seen some movement in the past as a result of the plan to build the Ta Khmau Bridge, which offered better trade connections with southern Cambodia. But he says that South Korean, Japanese and American foreign investment had let to little in the concrete developments in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-8.

He adds that this had led to a flattening out of property prices in Ta Khmau City, and even an exodus away from the city into Phnom Penh.

“Even though Ta Khmau City is close to Phnom Penh, people tend to flow into the city because few want to live in the provinces,” he says.

This has had a knock-on effect, with prices for rice fields stagnating at around $7,000 to $10,000 per hectare, but a shortage of buyers for anyone who wanted to sell.

According to Heang, prices for condominiums have similarly been affected, with an initial surge in prices after the announcement of plans to build the Ta Khmau Bridge, followed by a correction in prices after its completion.

Prices for flats and condominiums along the main road ranged from around $60,000 to $70,000 but jumped to an approximate average of $150,000 when the bridge was announced, he says. Today, prices range from an average $120,000 to $130,000, and it is a buyer’s market.

Nevertheless, Van Vat, deputy chief of the Kandal Provincial Department of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, says that a plan for Ta Khmau City would be complete within the next three years. According to Vat, the plan would be helpful in terms of managing development, and he adds that he was confident it would add value over the longer term.

“Considered planning and management will increase investor confidence,” he says, adding that proximity to Phnom Penh was another factor that would draw investors, particular as commuting into the city became more feasible.Read Original text

In the market for a makeover

Thu, 1 May 2014

2_The-view-from-the-rooftop-of-the-Frangipani-Living-Arts-Hotel--SpaIf you hadn’t heard, the Russian Market area, or Tuol Tompoung, has quietly been undergoing a facelift. To be sure, it’s early days, but affordability, accessibility to the rest of the city and an emergent “scene” are establishing the area as a go-to district for city residents.

Once the preserve of beer gardens and mom-and-pop stores, a hip spillover effect from expat-oriented and increasingly expensive BKK1 is remaking the warren of streets and alleys off Mao Tse-toung Boulevard. Even the Russian Market itself appears to have lifted its act in recent years – it’s cleaner these days, and offers some genuine bargains for those who have the patience to bargain and don’t breeze in and out like tourists.

“In the old days, when Phnom Penh felt like a small town, the Russian Market seemed like it was a long way away, but today it’s just a couple of kilometres from the riverfront and it’s become an area that’s not only about tourists heading to picks up some arts and crafts, but an area you can hang out in and have lunch and dinner,” says Cambodia Lonely Planet author Nick Ray.

Just one of many restaurants springing up in the Russian Market area.

Just one of many restaurants springing up in the Russian Market area. CHRIS TAYLOR

“Funky” is the word some are using to describe the area’s burgeoning restaurant scene, but the reality is that even a casual wander through the area turns up unexpected surprises. Take American-run Brooklyn Pizza and Bistro, which flung open its doors late last year and is already acclaimed in some quarters as having the best pizzas in town – “artisanal” was the word owner Jay Miller used to describe his New York-style pizzas to the Post shortly after the opening.

Brooklyn is directly opposite the latest Frangipani Group’s hotel offering.

Somethearith Din, who goes by the name of Ritz, took the bold move of opening the hotel –Frangipani Living Arts Hotel and Spa, on Street 123 – in the area, because he says he thinks until recently it was a neglected a part of town.

“In the past people only came to the area to go to the market and shop, but I wanted to make a point,” he says. “This is an area that is developing fast, and it’s really not far from the rest of town.”

And with more than 100 balconied rooms, gardens, a downstairs swimming pool and a rooftop bar and swimming pool, Ritz has made his point – and it has paid off. According to Ritz, the hotel is enjoying close to 100 per cent capacity.

For expats moving into the area, the lure is chiefly affordability, but there’s also a certain cachet to going “local”.

New York-style pizzas come to Tuol Tompoung, an area once the preserve of beer gardens.

New York-style pizzas come to Tuol Tompoung, an area once the preserve of beer gardens. CHRIS TAYLOR

“If you’re going to live in Phnom Penh, sure, you could rent a place in BKK1, and everything is at your doorstep, but the Russian Market area offers apartments as good as most of those in the BKK1 area and at half the price,” says managing director of MAXEM PropertySaraboth Ea, who goes by the name of Lee.

Other property agents agree, maintaining that rental values can often be as much as a third those of BKK1.

Meanwhile, with other in-the-know eateries already taking root in the area – take Japanese Ichiban and Sesame Noodle Bar, and the Alma Café, which with its Mexican-style “soul food” is already being heralded as among the best in town – some of the bigger operators are looking at Tuol Tompoung to expand their operations.

Michael Harder, chief operations manager of Joma Coffee, a regional coffee chain with branches in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, for example, plans to open the chain’s third Phnom Penh branch in the Russian Market area in September.

“It’s becoming an area in which people drop in and shop, and we want to be part of that,” says Harder.

“It’s Phnom Penh’s up-and-comer, with new places opening by the day,” says Lee of MAXEM. “It’s kind of like the Williamsburg of Phnom Penh,” he added, referring to a trendy part of New York City borough of Brooklyn.Read Original text