Many local residents and tourists have noticed the hulking 53 story condominum that stands incomplete and abandoned at the entrance to the Bali Hai pier. Questions are often asked about the story behind this condo and why it sits abandoned and is an eyesore for the cities otherwise beautiful bay view. Today, we take some time to answer that question. Source material from The pattaya news and The Daily Mail have been used for this article, as well as various legal materials from condominium owners.
On July 16th, 2014, city officials halted construction of the 53-story condominium and hotel project at Bali Hai Pier that sparked an Internet firestorm after photos showing the tower obstructing a classic Pattaya viewpoint went viral online. Mayor at the time, Itthiphol Kunplome stated that the project – first launched in 2004 – has continually followed correct and fully transparent legal processes and he urged anyone alleging that shortcuts were taken to investigate the various hearings and reports themselves.
The Developers claimed they had complied with all the legal steps required of them.
Offically, construction on The Waterfront Suites and Residence was ordered July 16, 2014 to stop after saftey inspectors discovered that the building – particularly its fire escapes and elevator systems – varied from approved construction designs.
Lead contractor Thai Engineering, however, allegedly ignored the stop-work order and continued until former Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome called a press conference on August 18, 2014 to address the chain of complaints that went viral on the Internet.
Photos showing the tower obstructing a large chunk of Pattaya Bay were published on Facebook, Twitter and other online sources, with outraged Thais writing a message on republished pictures to the National Council for Peace and Order urging the military to investigate.
The complaints accused the developer of building a structure both taller and closer to the beach than permitted and noted it also obstructs the view of the Prince Chumphon Khet Udomsak statue sitting on the top of Pratamnak Hill which is very important to the Thai Navy. The statue is meant to be pointing to the ocean, but is now pointing to the condo.
Former Mayor Itthiphol repeatedly stated that the project – first launched in 2004 – has continually followed correct and fully transparent legal processes and he urged anyone alleging that shortcuts were taken to investigate the various hearings and reports themselves.
However, he noted, during the approval process, Pattaya City Hall did oppose the size of the tower, noting its impact on the skyline, but the city’s objections were overruled by the building board and regional leaders.
The former mayor also said allegations that Waterfront Suites was built too close to the sea are incorrect. Law covering the Bali Hai area forbids building within 100 meters of the waterline. However, Pattaya already approved construction of a new marina built on reclaimed land. That project extended the shoreline out by 100 meters, thus making the condominium and hotel, which would be managed by Accor Hotels, legal. The extension is currently under construction, nearly five years later.
The developers had submitted an environmental-impact report to a Chonburi Province panel, which approved it in May 2008 and forwarded it to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning. After being lashed at online, the ONREPP said last week it would investigate the project again.
An office official told the media in late 2014 that EIA criteria forbid new projects to block beach views. However, if public agencies approved the impact report knowing it blocked scenery – and the developer followed that plan exactly – the fault lies with the government and not the developer.
Itthiphol said, however, it appears that project developers or contractors have strayed from the approved plans, at least when it came to fire escapes and elevators. Further checks were stated to be made of the entire structure to see what else, if anything, has been changed.
Itthiphol said it was possible that if the changes were substantial, officials would go to court to have the multi-billion-baht project demolished.
The tower’s financial backers, of course, at the time wanted to do anything possible to avoid that. Cobbled together out of seven land-title deeds spread over two rai of prime beachfront land, the towering condo and hotel was seen by Pattaya officials as an anchor for their aspirations of a luxury-yacht marina.
Meanwhile, Bali Hai Co. Ltd, the Isreali owned company behind the project, continued to sell condos. In May of 2015, they announced and published this chart showing that only 38 condos were left.
Meanwhile, the online furor over the condo continued and construction remained halted. The sales office for the condominium complex stayed open and continued to sell and promote the online website. However, as court room battles and legal claims from various groups began, the company behind the Waterfront began losing money defending the condo in court. The construction company who had been signed to a contract to complete the condo also sued successfully for a large amount of money, the exact amount which was undisclosed.
Then, on January 16, 2017, the company filed a petition with the Central Bankruptcy Court in Bangkok for debt restructuring of more than Bt2.39bn . The Central Bankruptcy Court issued the notice and informed the interested parties.
The restructure plan didn’t work. A few months later, the company had gone bankrupt and the condo still stood, three years later, as an abandoned and decomposing hulk of a structure.
So where does that leave the Waterfront today? We will cover that in part two later this week. Follow us on Facebook on Pattaya UnPlugged to stay tuned.