Source: Phnom Penh Post | Thu, January 21, 2016, by Kali Kotoski
Citing concerns about Sokha Hotel’s ability to develop a 14-hectare plot on Chroy Changvar peninsula, various government bodies have been holding a closed-door design competition that will define the skyline opposite Sisowath Quay and in direct view of the Royal Palace.
Aong Sotthearith from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC), said that while Sokha Hotel and Resort had submitted its own plan that included a mixed-use development with serviced apartments, high-end condominiums and space for a retail and entertainment district, it failed to gain government approval.
“We did not accept the plan because of various complaints from other ministries and stakeholders during the construction of Sokha Hotel, so the government decided that they could not be allowed to build it on their own,” he said, adding that the MLMUPC was still unsure if the $120 million five-storey luxury hotel, which took six years to build and officially opened its doors last March, had followed the originally approved plan.
“We have to be sure that all future developments are in line with the newly adopted Phnom Penh Master Plan,” he said.
With 13 companies originally bidding for approval, Sotthearith said that the pool has been narrowed down to five international design firms from Malaysia, Korea and Singapore, as well as two local firms.
“The committee will meet on January 25 to narrow it down [further] to three candidates,” he said, noting that after the final competition is completed, the two losing firms will receive “some compensation” for their work. The committee consists of delegates from the MLMUPC, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, the Board of Engineers, and the Cambodian Construction Association.
Heu Heng, deputy director-general of Sokimex Group, the parent company of Sokha Hotel and Resorts, declined to provide details about why the original plan failed approval, or if the competition was in part searching for a Joint-Venture partner to help fund the development.
However, he did say that the submitted plans would take up less than the original 14-hectare plot and most consist of five high-rise residential buildings with retail space.
“The final design depends on who wins the competition,” he said, adding that an official announcement for the future of the peninsula will come in the middle of February.
Sotthearith said that the construction process will depend on the financial decisions made by Sokha Hotel and Resort, and whichever private firm is finally selected.
“For the cost of construction, we are not sure. This committee is just to make sure the development process [on Chroy Changvar] continues, but not against the law,” he said.
When contacted Tuesday night, City Hall Spokesman Long Dimanche said that he had just recently heard about this competition but was not privy to the details because it is on “private land [owned by] Sokha.”
Nevertheless, he said from his point of view this competition can only benefit the capital.
“[This] location is one of the best in the city, so Sokha should be careful [on how] to use this location for an iconic building,” he said.
Sokha Hotel and Resorts, owned by Okhna Sok Kong, recently announced their second resort in Siem Reap. To date, the Sokimex conglomerate has five hotel properties spread amongst four main cities in the Kingdom.