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Koh Pich: diamond in the rough slowly comes together

Construction of the Diamond Island Riviera project is beginning to push skyward.
Construction of the Diamond Island Riviera project is beginning to push skyward. Hong Menea Hong Menea

Koh Pich: diamond in the rough slowly comes together

Since being designated for development by the municipal government in 2006, Koh Pich has been abuzz with activity. Now covered in the widest, least-congested roads in central Phnom Penh, this island is filling up quickly with residential, retail and hospitality projects aimed at affluent locals and visitors.

Koh Pich, which in Khmer means “Diamond Island”, sits at the mouth of where the Tonle Bassac river’s journey begins towards Vietnam. The island, which was formed by alluvial silt deposits, didn’t even exist until about half a century ago. Local legend has it that a boat sank where the island is today, steadily accumulating silt and sand until the island was formed.

From these humble beginnings, Koh Pich has become a showcase for Phnom Penh’s (and developer OCIC’s) growing developmental ambitions. The two-kilometre-long island is home to a golf driving range, the city’s largest international exhibition centre, a fire station, a new city hall and a theatre.

And that’s only what’s been completed. Massive developments are well under way, including the Elite Town and La Seine residential communities and the massive $100 million Diamond Island Riviera project.

Funded by OCIC subsidiary Canadia Bank, Diamond Island Riviera will feature two 28-storey buildings and three 38-storey buildings. The three taller buildings will be connected at the top by a 200-metre-long swimming pool, à la Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort.

The project will feature apartments, condominiums, offices, a supermarket and even an amusement park. Early last year the average price for condominiums was announced at $1,800 per square metre.

Independent Property Services sales director Bobby Peoples has watched Koh Pich take shape quickly in recent years.

“Diamond Island represents an exciting development for Phnom Penh and Cambodia as it brings together high-end residential [projects], an entertainment district and a retail hub,” Peoples said.

“The development on Diamond Island is really starting to take shape with the building of City Hall and the La Seine development. The aptly named gated community Elite Town located at the south end of Koh Pich continues to progress, plus The Riviera project modeled on the magnificent Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore is taking shape.”

For those looking to get in on the action on Koh Pich, however, the time is not necessarily now. Strolling along the island’s wide roads, one quickly realises that construction and exhibitions aside, for now it is a popular place for local youth to cruise around on their motorcycles and maybe have some barbecue. Several large tents near the exhibition centre are popular venues for wedding parties. But this will change as more projects come online.

“For those taking a medium- to long-term investment view, Diamond Island is a very attractive development due to its close proximity to the centre of the city, its infrastructure and its creative design concepts,” Peoples said.

“For those investors with a shorter-term view we recommend investing in other areas, as Diamond Island’s development will require a number of years to fully achieve its potential and therefore create significant capital gains for its investors.”

Diamond Island is indeed well-connected with “mainland” Phnom Penh. Three bridges link the island directly with Sihanouk Boulevard, Street 78 and Rose Garden.

Being an island, Koh Pich offers plenty of shoreline. Its eastern bank is already filled up with the Riviera, the driving range and other projects. The western bank, which overlooks a slight sliver of the Tonle Bassac, is already a popular dining area with local youth.

Another area regularly frequented by kids on motorcycles is the north end of the island, where a major reclamation project has been undertaken. This area may end up being the site of a “Diamond Tower” projected to reach between 550 and 610 metres high. When contacted by the Post about the proposed skyscraper and other plans for Koh Pich, municipal spokesman Long Dimanche declined to comment.

Independent Property Services’ Peoples said that regardless of the current construction site feel to the island, its future is a bright one.

“We envisage Diamond Island becoming the entertainment centre of Phnom Penh whilst also offering modern contemporary living,” he said. “Whether this can be achieved within the next two to three years is debatable.”

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