Why Is Boeung Keng Kang Such a Hotspot?
February 10, 2023, 3:15 a.m.
What makes Boeung Keng Kang 1 such an enduring presence and attractive destination for residents, new businesses, condo and hotel developers who continue to pay top dollar for the centrally located area of Phnom Penh - it remains the city's hottest neighbourhood. The Appeal of BKK1 Phnom PenhIts clear that Boeung Keng Kang 1 remains one of the most desirable and key districts in Phnom Penh and thus remains one of the most popular areas of this growing city (the data supports this and we will get to that later).The location of BKK1 is definitely a major factor, being interconnected and encompassed by four of the city’s busiest roads: Sihanouk Blvd to the north, Mao Tse Toung Boulevard the south, Norodom Blvd in the east and Monivong Blvd to the west - they are among the first street names most residents of the city get accustomed to.The diversity of accommodation, food and beverage outlets, selection of diverse offices, rooftop and ground level bars, the plethora of chic cafes and the ever-changing retail outlets which include stylish boutiques in BKK1 means it maintains its high price point, and popularity.New Brands Choose BKK1Simon Griffiths, Managing Director of The Mall Company, said that BKK1 is often the location of choice for new brands (most notably international brands) entering the Cambodian market. “Either AEON 1 or BKK1 is where new brands choose to establish their first store location and then expand from there. The reasons are the high concentration of expats with BKK1 as the premier residential & apartment location in the city, and the high discretionary spend of the surrounding demographic residing or working within the catchment.”2022 saw more than 99 new brands enter the Cambodian market and nearly 350 brands expanded their presence. Meanwhile, over 600.000 sqm of retail space was added in the capital, with nearly 250,000 sqm still under development. Although retail prices and occupancy rates naturally dropped during the pandemic - there was a wholesale shift in the food and beverage, hotel, retail and grocery offerings in BKK1.361° a global performance and lifestyle brand is a new addition, while locally owned Scarlet Fiber offers bespoke and locally designed fashion, and brand stores from Adidas, Charles & Keith, Pedro, and Zandos are all within the suburb.Boeung Keng Kang 1 still caters for all palates and the wide mix of international franchised food, fine dining, or streetside local Cambodian food makes the area attractive to residents, businesses, and tourists. Restaurants such as Pizza 4Ps, which opened its first location on the Sisowath Quay riverside (which remains extremely popular), have recently opened its second location situated in BKK1 in 2023. The Brown Cafe flagship roaster is located here, as are the ABA Phnom Penh headquarters, while new themed cafes such as 2D Cambodia are gaining in popularity. There still remains an element of charm walking the bustling streets within the Sangkat, as high (and higher) highrises are complemented with ground-level outdoor spaces such as that found at Penh 278, or the hideaway whiskey bars and authentic Khmer noodle houses, Japanese sushi eateries, co-existing with well-known local and international franchises from the USA, Europe and across Asia (Starbucks, Cafe Amazon, Papa John's Pizza, Dominos Pizza, Carls Jnr, KFC, etc.)Where else can you sample local and international craft beer (Embargo, Cerevisia or Duplex), wander over to specialised whiskey bars such as Odin and then join fanatical fans in a sports bar (Score), or join backpackers at singalong clubs, or simply fine-dine with a glamourous skyline view?Rooftop bars with expansive views of the city are chic and these include Highground Sky Bar and Baitong. The continued growth has also not prevented mom-and-pop type stores from surviving, in some cases thriving.The area is incredibly diverse but the ever-increasing and looming condos are evident and some streets have seen wholesale changes as they give in to high prices from developers. Some popular expat hangouts such as the hostel Mad Monkey and bar/restaurant Aussie XL have moved out of the area, while Zeppelins closed permanently.However, this does not detract families from wanting to live in BKK1 as the area also is home to several Cambodian and international schools, a short walking distance to Bluebird British International, Invictus International or iCAN British International schools.The addition of more supermarkets (Lucky Supermarket, Super Duper, AEON MaxValu, the new FairPlus Express) and online shopping makes it even easier to make sure a household is stocked up.The area's first, and still only mall - Chip Mong Noro Mall - opened in 2020 adding cinemas as well as additional retail space, food outlets and a meeting point for BKK1. Griffiths added that the area is “notably absent of big box stores as the rents are too high for large spaces and few large spaces are available.”He concluded “Ultimately BKK1’s growth will be hampered by the available infrastructure - namely roads and parking. If the area becomes inconvenient and limits the number of customers visiting due to traffic conditions and if the demographics within the catchment area cannot grow further, then there will be a threshold to the number of retail stores that the area can sustain and it will reach saturation point.”Property Prices in BKK1According to the latest data from the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia, Boeung Keng Keng I land price per sqm ranges from USD $4,900-$10,000, which is still $1000 per sqm higher than the next most expensive in the capital of Orussey I - so yes, the land is less affordable within BKK1.But BKK1 is the hottest location in Phnom Penh, so it demands the highest price per square metre in the capital. This is reasonably affordable compared to regional capital cities such as Bangkok or Hanoi. Office rental, retail, and condo rental prices have all dropped over the past few years due to the combination of financial impact of the pandemic and BKK still remains in the top 3 most developed Sangkats in the capital. There were 59 Green Net construction projects (under construction, partial, or on hold) in the area in 2022, with 30 of these residential projects, 12 mixed use and 9 office developments reported by CBRE.900, 000 sqm of office space was added in 2022 in Phnom Penh with a healthy amount in central locations such as BKK. Just under 600,000 was still under development.The city also boasts as many as 24,000 additional hotel room keys to the market in 2022.Examples of new condos and apartment projects under development in BKK1 include: Le Conde BKK1 (due 2024) - A 43-story building set to include a BKK Avenue retail store & boutique reading space, sky Jogging Track, indoor swimming pool & fitness centre, Children’s Play Paradise, Immersive Sky Garden, co-working space, rooftop sky bar, and infinity pool.The Flora Suites (due 2024)- The 38-storey condo and office complex provides a sky swimming pool, club & sky restaurant.Time Square 306 (due 2025) - The 45-floor property provides a gym, kids' play area, games rooms, infinity pool, & decking area with a garden.Golden Tower 322 (due 2023) - The building is already a landmark and will offer both office and living space in the heart of the capital, with an infinity pool, Jacuzzi, open-air hot-spring bath, sauna room, gym, sky bar, and an outdoor recreational area.Recently completed residential projects include:J Tower 2 - A 43-storey Japanese-affiliated condo offering a gym, spacious parking area, boxing ring, cafe, swimming pool, jacuzzi, and a sky bar.L'attrait - The 26-storey high-end Japanese-developed condominium was completed in 2021.M Residence - 29-storey condo offering a sky bar, a sky swimming pool, and gym centre was added to BKK in 2021.Picasso Garden City - Mixed building with a hanging garden, banquet hall, infinity & paddling pool, gym, international business office, F&B, Picasso art auction centre.What Is In Store For The Future Of Boeung Keng Kang 1?With the high prices not deter developers from establishing new condos, mixed residential properties, or even hotels, and the promise of even more tourism in the future, there will only be more brands and outlets popping up in BKK1. Accor announced its first Mercure hotel in Cambodia, the Mercure Phnom Penh Boeung Keng Kong 1 is set to open in 2027.Griffiths adds that “there will be a constant turnover of retail stores within BKK1 as it is still a highly desirable location resulting in a continued vibrant and active retail real estate sector in the area.”Although city or Sangkat planning has not traditionally been a strong characteristic of the city, there should be some foresight from the authorities. If BKK wants to be the urban living, retail, and foodie hub of Phnom Penh in the future, the area could entertain the idea of increased heritage preservation, pedestrian-only streets on St 51, St 57 or St 63 In the evenings or weekends, and feature more collaborative culture and street style festivals in the Sangkat.Griffiths added “The drawbacks of BKK1 congested roads, especially at peak rush-hour times and school drop-off and pick-up times, and a lack of parking (curbside parking is a remedy of sorts but adds to the congested narrow streets). Pedestrianising parts of BKK1 has potential but the lack of zoning makes it extremely challenging as there are so many stakeholders.”Does the area want to be a downtown Tokyo with bright lights or a Sukhumvit-style attraction with a diverse range of desirability that becomes a traffic nightmare? The identity of BKK1 has always been morphing but with the land the only capped resource, for it to be a world-famous hotspot and attractive hub that caters to Cambodians and international visitors and residents alike - while maintaining its investment pull - BKK1 will continue to modernise and diversify.