Lurked behind Aeon Mall is a relatively concealed cluster of restaurants and bars catering mostly to young Cambodians.
Every evening, live music can be heard blasting out along these blocks that used to be a big, untamed piece of land roamed free by trees and weeds. It wasn’t until two years ago that three big roads were built to divide this land plot.
The area can only be described as located on the west side of the river, east of the Russian Embassy, north of Aeon Mall and south of the Bridge Street, due to its lack of street names and street numbers.
Sathya, one of the land managers of the area, said the streets essentially have neither name nor number because it was a recent development. He said his relatives rented the land from a renowned businessman, and subsequently rented it out for business purposes.
A senior real estate expert at CVEA, who declined to be named, confirmed that this area of land belongs to Kith Meng, one of the Kingdom’s most prominent business tycoons. In the land title, it was simply stated that the streets would be listed as “public road”.
Sathya explained that the businesses there have three-year leases, which are open to negotiation. Nonetheless, he added that the area will be developed into a bigger project in about 5 years.
The senior real estate expert said, “This land will definitely be developed. The lease they are handing out right now is only temporary because of the current situation,” adding that if the area were to develop right now, there would be no one to sell the project to because the country’s economy is still relatively small.
“They are not building anything from 2015 to 2018. They are waiting for the GDP to go as high as $2,000 per capita. That’s when they plan to develop. That would be at least in 2019 or 2020,” he said.
Its prime location of a vast four hectares would have a market price of at least $4,000 per square metre giving the land an approximate value of $160 million. Meanwhile, the road on the north side of the land is as wide as 30 metres.
The expert speculated that the project would either be developed into a hotel, office building, or condominium. He emphasised the area will certainly be developed in five years.
While awaiting this impending, large project, nonetheless, a string of restaurants has been seen popping up, only to close down mere months after. Sathya said the reason for that is because “this area is full of high-class people. Normal [F&B] businesses can’t survive with this kind of crowd.”
One of the new restaurants is Zest, which used to be the Blue Monkey, is operated by the same owner. She managed Blue Monkey for a year before closing it down. Her reason for changing the name of her restaurant was because Blue Monkey was not making sufficient profits as initially projected. While Blue Monkey targeted families, her new restaurant Zest focuses more on young local Cambodians who would go there to enjoy drinks and live music.
When asked what she would do if a development project was put in place and her business had to be shut down, she said she would not worry about it too much, because that would mean that all other businesses in the vicinity would have to shut down as well.
Regardless, she said she has not received any information from the land owner about any future development plans or how long she is able to rent the land for.
Although Sathya said he is still unsure what measure the businesses or he will have to take once the imminent project is put into place, CVEA’s senior real estate expert explained that for this kind of lease, the businesses will not be compensated.
”They will have to tear down their businesses on their own,” he said.