Riviera Group celebrates TPA honours, tops out Wongamat project

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Having narrowly missed out on the premier award in 2015, Pattaya developer the Riviera Group finally received due recognition at this year’s 11th Thailand Property Awards, held at a grand gala dinner ceremony at the Plaza Athenee Bangkok hotel on Sept. 22.

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The Group’s Riviera Wong­a­mat Beach project was recipient of the Eastern Seaboard’s most prestigious award, ‘The Best Luxury Condominium 2016’ after beating out stiff competition from Aeras Condominium by The Urban Property and One Tower Pratumnak by 1 Group Development.

Riviera Wongamat also saw the topping out of its two high rise towers last month and a special ceremony was held on October 3 to mark the occasion.

Having now firmly established Riviera Group as one of Pattaya’s leading high-end developers, Winston Gale, owner of the company, recently spent some time with the Pattaya Mail to give some insight into how he and his team have managed to prosper in what is seen as an increasingly tough and competitive market.

Pattaya Mail: How was it to finally get your hands on the Thailand Property top award?  Did it feel like a vindication of all the hard work your team put into this project?

Winston Gale: I am delighted we won this prestigious award, its great for everyone in the team who have all worked tirelessly over the past couple of years.  It’s a good pat on the back for everyone involved.

A ceremony took place on Oct. 3 to mark the topping out of the Riviera Wongamat Beach project.
A ceremony took place on Oct. 3 to mark the topping out of the Riviera Wongamat Beach project.

The Riviera Group was formed over 3 years ago when I was half-way through building The Palm, also in North Pattaya.  Ironically, as plans were underway to start The Riviera Group we won the same award for The Palm in 2013.  I partnered up with Nova Group to develop that project back in 2010, which in reality was my first project in Thailand.  Since then, we launched The Riviera Wongamat Beach spending 45m THB on a showroom designed to impress, which I am pleased to say was received very well by both the local and Bangkok market.  Then we worked with CBRE real estate agents.  As time went by, our relationship grew stronger with many local agents and we decided to carry on sales without their services.

Winston Gale (left) and Sukanya Gale (centre) receive the ‘Best Luxury Condominium 2016’ award for the Riviera Wongamat Beach from Clayton Wade (right), Managing Director of Premier Homes Real Estate, during the Thailand Property Awards ceremony in Bangkok, Sept. 22.
Winston Gale (left) and Sukanya Gale (centre) receive the ‘Best Luxury Condominium 2016’ award for the Riviera Wongamat Beach from Clayton Wade (right), Managing Director of Premier Homes Real Estate, during the Thailand Property Awards ceremony in Bangkok, Sept. 22.

PM: What are the current sales figures for the property?  Have you noticed any downward trend in sales to reflect the current global economy?

WG: The project itself is 83% sold today which we are happy with, being as we had over 10% of cancellations over the last 2 years.  The same problems that have hit tourism generally affected us the same way.

PM: How big are these Riviera projects (Wongamat & Jomtien) compared to other high-rises?

WG: Well, Riviera Wong­amat is 2 high-rise builds, 45 and 43 floors in height with over 68,000sq.m of floor space.  I guess as a comparison, it is by example about 30% bigger than The Palm, so it’s quite a large project.  That said, Riviera Jomtien is another 10% bigger again (or 40% bigger than The Palm) so these are quite significant sized high-rise projects.  But it’s good for Pattaya to have developments like this, it’s all part of helping to raise the profile of the city.

The 2 high-rise towers of Riviera Wongamat Beach reach for the sky.
The 2 high-rise towers of Riviera Wongamat Beach reach for the sky.

PM: When do you expect to complete Riviera Wongamat?

WG: As originally planned, we should be almost complete by the end of next summer.  We secured in May this year a bank loan from SCB for 920m THB, which is enabling us to drive the construction forward quite quickly.  Late last month we ‘topped-out’ at both towers after reaching roof-top completion, which for us in construction is a big milestone.  It won’t be long now before the tower cranes and hoists come down and we start being able to use the internal lifts.

PM: We know from previous articles that your ‘right-hand’ is actually your wife Sukanya who you have described as ‘the heartbeat of the Group’.   What’s it like working so closely together?

WG: Probably as you would expect really, very rewarding mostly.  We understand each other so that helps so much.  Of course we will have our arguments too, but that’s just a normal process and typical of the day-to-day issues we deal with.  The team all respects her because she understands the job, the process and the project inside out.  No one else knows it like her other than myself.  She is fair, but can be tough too.

Sukanya and Winston Gale (centre) celebrate with other category winners on stage at the conclusion of the 2016 Thailand Property Awards.
Sukanya and Winston Gale (centre) celebrate with other category winners on stage at the conclusion of the 2016 Thailand Property Awards.

PM: What can you tell us about the Riviera Group team?

WG: Well, of course as the head of the company I would say the team is great, but they genuinely are.  We are lucky to have lots of hard working people who help make The Riviera Group what it is today.  It’s never just 1 or 2 people, that’s just not possible.  Some came to the awards with us in Bangkok, which was great to experience together, but of course with a team of about 100 people today, I cannot name them all, but they know who they are and I work alongside them, they make me feel privileged everyday that they have the patience to put up with my foreign perspective on things when they are all Thai and we are very different.  I know I can be difficult and very demanding at times.

PM: Back to where it all started, what do you think about ‘The Palm’ now it’s finished?

WG: To be fair, I’m very proud of it, especially the journey to get it to where it is today.  I remember being introduced to the landowner, spending time on the land when it was almost a forest, seeing Thailand’s political problems, poor market conditions, then starting it and having huge issues along the way.  I had a great partner in Rony Fineman (Nova Group) to learn from and very early into the project, he realized I was capable of getting on with it and so that’s what I did, together with Sukanya, and that’s how its been right to the end.

Seeing it finished now, I guess it’s like seeing your child finally graduate.  For buyers, we have been delayed but the finished product I believe is exceeding most people’s expectations, so the delays become less important, but for me and Sukanya personally, it’s been a very long journey spanning almost 8 years.

What most people don’t realize is that Sukanya and myself literally handpicked and designed just about everything you see there.  All the furniture, the marble, the chandeliers, the tiles, literally all the features, even the snooker table (he laughs) and landscaping.  We put our personal attention to detail into it so it’s fair to say the project means a lot to us personally.  I like to think though that shines through when you are there as an owner walking around.  We will of course put the same level of detail and finishing passion into The Riviera projects so that they will also have that extra magic you so often do not get with more corporate projects.

Note: For more information about The Riviera Group and its projects, visit websites: therivierawongamat.com,  therivierajomtien.com or check the company’s Facebook page.