It’s a cliché universally abused by journalists and commentators alike that Cambodia is a country slowly rising from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, but for once this can be rightly applied to the capital’s property market; for so long stagnant in recent years it has seen a remarkable renaissance.
BY MARISSA CARRUTHERS
The sound of construction echoes throughout the Cambodian capital and a simple glance across the horizon reveals seemingly endless half-built developments wrapped in green netting and jutting into the sky.
“Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, is developing at an astonishing rate and this will only continue into the future,” predicts David Murphy, managing director of Independent Property Service (IPS).
If 2014 was the year of the high-rise condo, then 2015 looks set to be the year of small-scale, boutique living, sparking a semi-gold rush as foreigners flock to snap up these stylish new offerings.
This year, IPS estimates about 40 new strata title properties, where foreigners can legally buy above ground floor, will enter the market. Sitting on a much smaller scale than the luxury living offered by the likes of De Castle Royal’s 32-storey condo block – the country’s first, which opened in July 2014 – and the 44-storey twin tower The Bridge, due to open in 2018, these projects will see intimate developments of as few as eight apartment blocks spring up throughout Phnom Penh.
These apartments will mainly be located to the south, around the burgeoning Russian Market area, and other outlying areas as the capital’s parameters continue to spread. “This is going to be interesting to watch,” Murphy says. “It gives foreign investors much more option to legally buy and invest in a variety of different properties.”
The capital’s two-km long Diamond Island, or Koh Pich, is one area that looks set to transform in 2015 as development continues to pick up pace. Among the many developments underway, the towering Tokyo Inn, a joint venture between the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation and the Japanese business hotel chain, is expected to open in May, offering more than 300 rooms spread across 23 floors. A series of other restaurants, houses and business ventures are also set to launch this year.
“Diamond Island is progressing at an amazing rate, and the ability to build there quickly is astonishing,” Murphy says. “It seems to be continuing towards being a retail and entertainment hub. In 2015, it will be a living hub as well. Continue to watch this space.”
Another spot to watch is the Chroy Changva peninsula. Sitting on the other side of the Tonle Sap River from the capital’s riverside, the area is expected to experience a boom in 2015, thanks to the recent soft opening of the Sokha Hotel and Residence.
The 20-storey hotel, which has dominated the peninsula’s tip since construction started in May 2007, boasts more than 400 rooms, luxury apartments, spas and other facilities.
The stretch of riverside that runs from Sokha to the Japanese-Cambodia Friendship Bridge has also been revamped and boasts paved sidewalks, colonial street lamps, and neat rows of frangipani and umbrella trees.
“There will be a lot of change over there with some big developments planned,” says CBRE senior manager Simon Griffiths, citing seven to eight mooted satellite cities that will transform the area. Plans to introduce a water taxi or boat service to connect the two sides of the river are also currently being considered.
In April, GT Tower will open its doors, providing the capital with high-spec office space and plenty of parking. As the latest in a wave of contemporary designed, eco-friendly buildings that are transforming the capital, the modern, 15-storey tower is expected to house the increasing number of international businesses that are setting up shop in the Kingdom as well as the country’s budding entrepreneur scene.
As for retail, the opening of Aeon Mall in June 2014 paved the way for a whole host of opportunities across the capital. The Japanese company has already unveiled potential plans to create a second mall in the country and Murphy says IPS is currently in talks with a number of undisclosed retail groups about opportunities in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
“They are looking to bring in shopping centre experiences after the relative success of Aeon Mall,” he adds. “This has provided confidence in that market sector.”
Construction of the five-storey Parkson City Centre Mall on Russian Boulevard is well underway with completion scheduled for the end of 2015 to the start of 2016. Aimed at the upper mid-market, the mall is expected to attract another swathe of previously unseen international brands to the country. “We’ve already had a lot of interest from retailers,” Griffiths says.
The same stretch of Russian Boulevard, leading from the airport to the city centre, will see continued development throughout 2015, with IPS predicting a “real retail push” during the next 12 months.
And the secret to the success lies in attaining a critical mass.
“For retail to be successful you need to create a certain gravity,” says Griffiths. “You need to create a destination that people want to go to. This is what Aeon Mall has done well. You can go shopping, then bowling or to the cinema and then get something to eat.”
Major developments in Phnom Penh
DE CASTLE ROYAL
As the country’s first luxury condominium block, De Castle Royal has paved the way for a new market in the capital since opening in June 2014.
Units 414 Floors 34
Price 1 bedrooms start at $160,000
2 bedrooms start at $223,000
Singaporean investors pledged to pump $300 million into constructing the twin-towered commercial building in downtown Phnom Penh, with work starting last year.
Units Tower 1 963 SoHo (combined living and working space) units Tower 2 763 apartments
Floors 45 Price 1 bedrooms start at $150,000 2 bedrooms start at $220,000
High-rise luxury living in the diplomatic district comes in the form of this tower block, offering one to three-bedroom apartments and penthouse suites.
Units 85 Floors 18 Price 1 bedrooms start at $149,000 2 bedrooms start at $260,000
A huge development including four towers of residential living, shophouses, offices and a seven-storey supermarket.
Units Tower 1 390 Tower 2 358 Tower 3 not available Tower 4 not available
Floors Tower 1 55 Tower 2 26 Tower 3 20 Tower 4 15
Price: 1 bedrooms start at $88,000
2 bedrooms start at $220,000
Modern flair meets luxury living in this new venture.
Units 104 Floors 21
Price 1 bedrooms start at $142,000
2 bedrooms start at $211,000
This twin-towered, skyscraper condominium development is set to transform Koh Pich (Diamond Island) upon completion.
Floors Tower 1 29 Tower 2 31
Price 1 bedrooms start at $132,000
2 bedrooms start at $168,000