By Thanapat Kitjakosol
Proposal for new Bt500m market in Pratunam
Bangkok’s Chalermlarp Pratunam Market vendors have submitted a self-development plan to create “King Market Place Pratunam”, a horizontal shopping area, and are seeking the backing of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB).
Currently, 51.6 per cent of the 35-year-old market’s 697 tenant vendors still have businesses there.
After granting Platinum Plaza Co a concession to develop the seven-rai plot into a new mall, CPB ended the market lease and has stopped collecting rent since December 17, 2012. On the same day, 500 vendors rallied outside the CPB office calling for cancellation of the plan and offering to draw up a self-development plan.
Community head Weerasak Susormwatsawong said CPB chief assistant Somboon Chaidetsuriya had allowed them propose a self-development plan in two months with four conditions:
_ The development should be in line with a better urban environment and society;
_ The original tenants should be able to happily return to the site;
_ The developer should get appropriate returns without taking advantage of residents/subtenants and the project budget;
_ The project should yield fair returns to CPB.
Weerasak said the community committee had formulated a plan to renovate and modernise shops and the market, with a Bt500 million budget. He said CPB would earn Bt1 billion in return while the vendors would also pay “leapfrog rate” rentals throughout a 30-year concession period, totalling Bt2.1 billion. On February 15, his group submitted the plan to CPB commercial project 1 division head Saowarak Anupansakul.
“The market people want justice and an opportunity to develop the plot into a horizontal shopping place with a vertical garden; one-third of the space would feature royal projects and Silpacheep shop,” he said, adding they would be willing to explain and adjust the plan according to CPB suggestions. The CPB had always told them it wasn’t seeking profit, so they hoped the plan would be considered.
He said they would move out of the plot if it was converted into a public park or a hospital – not a mall benefiting foreigners. He said the current monthly rentals were Bt1,200 per three square metres for a stall and Bt1,700 per 12 square metres for a chamber. There were 629 stalls and 68 chambers.
The vendors were compensated for lease cancellation at Bt50,000 (plus another Bt50,000 in coupon) per stall and at Bt1 million (plus another Bt1 million in coupon) per chamber. Although the coupons could be used to reserve space at the new mall or be resold to the new developer, he said that was not enough because the developer’s price was too high. He said a 48-square-metre chamber after development would be priced at Bt1 million per square metre, hence to run a business in the same area with the same space would cost Bt40 million and the new lease would last only 10 years.
Community spokesman Manote Ngansiri-udom said property development at that site wasn’t as strong as many assumed because developers set high prices, earned profits and left while many vendors, unable to bear the burden of high costs, closed down their businesses. He said stalls in nearby malls now had only 50 per cent occupancy.
He said they would keep on fighting and would not move out, adding that since the cancellation of the lease, three elderly vendors had fallen sick and died of shock.
Blouse vendor Lom Boknoi, 48, who has run her business there for eight years to support her family of four and paid Bt25,000 rent per month, said she couldn’t afford the new mall’s expensive rent and still had no idea what to do. She wanted CPB to approve the self-development plan.
Cosmetics vendor Decha Jarumaneejon, 60, who paid more than Bt1,000 a month for his shop, called for the market to be retained and not turned into another mall. He urged the CPB to give them a chance with the self-development plan to become a self-sufficient and developing community.