Green - proposed areas of the park
Orange - railroad tracks
Red - subway station
Bangkok's New Central Park
June 5, 2003 - An idea from 2Bangkok.com: convert all or part of the the 400-rai that has existed as a State Railway of Thailand (SRT) depot at Makkasan into Bangkok's new "Central Park." It could be centered around Makkasan Lake and Samsen Canal (both part of a Royal project for flood control) and be a last chance to provide a green space for this part of town.
For decades this area has been a junkyard full of derelict buildings in the heart of Bangkok. It can easily be seen from the elevated expressways that pass over the area and from the north side of Makkasan Road. Having a green area in this part of town is especially important with the loss of 26 acres of Sra Paduma Palace gardens (the green area behind the demolished Siam Intercontinental) to more shopping center development.
The latest proposal for the Makkasan land is another large development project that includes a transport hub (for the far away new airport). The development would include a "business center, shopping plaza, 5-star hotel, service apartments, offices for rent, trade center, and entertainment center." Such catch-all developments projects are continually being proposed for 'empty' areas of congested Bangkok. Klong Toey and the areas across from Chatuchak Park are currently under consideration for such projects, as well as areas all along the new subway routes (Makkasan development and the Subway-Skytrain network, Manager Weekly, May 16, 2003).
The Makkasan land has previously been proposed as the new home of the Eastern and Southern bus terminals (Planning to move the Southern and Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai Terminal) to Makkasan, Dailynews, July 2, 2002). This was perhaps the most inexplicable idea in such a congested area.
SRT has shown it does not work well on large development projects. After the Hopewell debacle, few investors have shown a willingness to deal with this famously corrupt government entity (Gordon Wu's Hopewell Holdings was a company that exclusively worked with 'difficult' government entities in various companies to develop large projects). The recent attempts to raise rents on SRT land tenants at the same time SRT has been embroiled in scandals merely emphasizes the lack of focus of the organization. The continual inability to privatize the loss-making SRT does not inspire confidence either.
New York City's Central Park
A park would not add to the congestion of the area as another large development would.
It would add an important focal point to a haphazardly developed area of the city.
It is the last area of this size available of such a project--once it has been used there will not be another chance.
Any political party or personality that pushes this through would leave their mark on Bangkok's character. Buildings last for a generation, but parks last forever.
Any use of the land would require cooperation from the SRT union since redevelopment would involve the eviction of SRT workers who live on the Makkasan grounds. Also on the grounds are a rudimentary Railway Museum and the Thai Labor Museum (both of which should probably stay).
Wisarut adds: The 360 rai of land that makes up Lumphini Park (sometimes referred to as Bangkok's Central Park) was secured by a 1927 Royal Edict of King Prajadhipok.
The Royal City Avenue (RCA) area (to the east of Makkasan) is also SRT land and was developed by the Sophnphanit family. It could be revitalized since there are just a few dilapidated offices in the area and pubs such as Route 66. It is a ghost town during the day.
(Thanks to Wisarut for additional information.)
Bangkok Central Park Development Concept - June 23, 2003
Pas Seangsong of Bangkok Highrises has created a 3D rendering of the new Bangkok Central Park 2Bangkok.com proposed earlier this month.
* A landmark observation tower, preferably the tallest in the world (with a specific height in feet or meters to symbolize some national aspect--like the new building in New York that will be 1776 feet high to symbolize the year of the founding of the U.S.)
* A manmade lake and water channel linking Samsen Nai and Saen Saep Canal via a 'living stream' running underneath the 1st stage expressway
* Residential, office + mixed use development on the perimeter (Kampaengphet/Makkasan Rd)
* Development around the Makkasan Transit Terminus (bus, train, airport train link interchange) with an entertainment center and a world class modern art gallery like the Museum of Modern Art in NYC
* Some of the old railway sheds could be restored and convert into a railway museum and interpretive center
The Makkasan Terminal - July 26, 2003
Fast electric rail link broached again - Bangkok Post, July 26, 2003
FAST-TRACK SOLUTION: Skyway to new airport - The Nation, July 26, 2003
Regular 2Bangkok.com readers first read about this back in May (Makkasan development and the Subway-Skytrain network - Manager Weekly, May 16, 2003) and may have also seen 2Bangkok.com's proposal for a new Bangkok Central Park for the Makkasan land.
The Post article mentions Minister Suriya asked SRT to contact overseas investors. Considering the SRT's sorry history on such projects and their uncertain, always-pending privatization, such a project would take a lot of government commitment. SRT would not be able to spearhead it. More on the Suvanabhumi Airport
Ijud 1 writes: Developing the Makkasan railway station and workshop to become an all-in-one transportation terminal is really a brilliant idea. Same like what Kuala Lumpur did at the old junk train station and workshop at Bricksfield to become KL Sentral. KL's version of the in-city transportation hub with all the public transportation crossing through it such as the KTM Commuter, LRT, monorail and also the KLIA Express Train. There are also hotels, shopping centres, condominiums and also office buildings under one project. Check it out at www.klsentral.com.my and www.stesensentral.com for more info. I'm really excited to see Thailand's version of it!
The Makkasan workshop - August 18, 2003
Wisarut has added some details to a Bangkok Post story from the Manager Daily.
From the Bangkok Post
The Transport Ministry will move its Makkasan railway workshop to either Bang Sue or the Rama IX area to make way for a mass transit system linking Bangkok and Suvarnabhumi airport.
Suriya Jungrungreangkit, the transport minister, said the workshop could move to the State Railway of Thailand's Bang Sue compound where a large railway maintenance centre would be developed. Or it could be relocated within the compound of the subway depot of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority.
Addemdum from Manager Daily, August 13, 2003
For the case of the MRTA Depot at Huay Kwang, it is necessary to think carefully since MRTA also plans to develop the land around the depot and maintenance center as as well - probably a new depot at Bangsue is the only other option, but it is necessary to expand the Railway Community at Km 11 to accommodate those SRT workers displaced from Makkasan. Furthermore, the 2nd phase of the Airport Link will have been extended to Bangsue eventually.
From the Bangkok Post
Makkasan will become an ``airport link'' terminal of express trains able to reach the new airport, 25 kilometres away, in 15 minutes. Airline passengers would be able to check in at the Makkasan terminal, which would include a hotel, entertainment complex and shopping centre. Mr Suriya is awaiting a detailed development plan from the State Railway of Thailand.
Cabinet recently endorsed a 20-million-baht budget for the SRT to contract a consultant to study the development that is likely to be a joint venture costing up to 26 billion baht [to be inline with Joint Venture Act of BE 2535]. Several parties, including Mitsui from Japan (Suppliers of EMUs for KL Kommuter), Siemens from Germany and others from China, were interested, he said. The government welcomed proposals from the private sector as it benefited decision-making and implementation.
SRT governor Chitsanti Dhanasobhon said the Makkasan workshop relocation plan would be proposed to Mr Suriya soon and the SRT would let the private sector play a bigger role in railway maintenance.
Addemdum from Manager Daily, August 13, 2003
The previous biddings for locomotive maintenance are very expensive, thus it is necessary to change the way to inform the private sector so that there will be more private companies to bid, thus cutting down the cost. So far, GE [supplier of Diesel-Electric Locomotives], Alstorm [supplier of Diesel-Electric Locomotives], Siemens, Hitachi [supplier of Diesel-Electric Locomotives via Mitsui], and a company from China could deal with the maintenance and would have a very big maintenance center to deal with.
Reactions from SRT workers about the Airport Link Complex - translated and summarized by Wisarut from Siamturakij, August 24-30, 2003
After hearing about the plan for the Airport Link at Makkasan, SRT workers said they are willing to move into other places. However, they demand 5000 rai of land for the new SRT communities for their families as well as for slum dwellers. Merging with Km 11 Railway Community would be fine, but the others may have to go to either Rama IX (near the subway depot) or Nong Pladuk Junction (Junction for the Southern Railway - near Ban Pong, Ratchaburi).
Workers said SRT has to move heavy machines such as lathe machines, blast furnaces, and so on from the 25 workshops inside Makkasan and about 200 unused rail cars and locomotives.
For the case of the Railway Hospital, they said they want to move to other places after the government becomes more serious about the Airport Link Complex.
Merchants around Makkasan flea market are the ones who are worried about their jobs. Many of them bring their products from their homes in the eastern region of the country... thus moving to either Bangsue or Nong Pladuek will not work--they would have higher transportation costs and require more time to set up the stalls.