Pattaya’s 53-story white elephant condo tower may be built of steel and concrete, but it’s a raft of paper keeping it upright.
That paper is, of course, the huge stack of civil lawsuits creeping their way through the courts following the failure of the Waterfront Suites and Residence on which construction was halted in 2014 amid public outcry, disavowals by government officials of agreements, questionable land deeds and plenty of finger-pointing.
Two years after the last major lawsuits were filed by those who purchased condos in the failed tower, Waterfront sits empty, a landmark eyesore on the Pattaya horizon that Pattaya administrators want to tear down, but can’t.
At the Sept. 28 Pattaya City Council meeting, Councilman Choluek Chotekamjorn questioned why no progress was made to demolish the black tower. Council Chairman Anan Angkanawisai and Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome told him why: Lawsuits.
The tower can’t be torn down as long as it is the subject of legal proceedings. All the council could do was agree to bring in a dozen demolition experts to work on a plan to demolish the huge structure if and when the city is allowed.
The last act of Waterfront developer Bali Hai Co. Ltd. – which went bankrupt in 2018 – was to have Worakit Construction Co. remove the crane that sat idle atop the tower for four years in Sept. 2018.
Its removal was a symbolic final nail in the coffin of the project, an epic financial loss not only for the developer and contractor, but the hundreds of individual buyers who lost hundreds of millions of baht in down payments.
The tower, originally 53 stories spread over more than 2.4 rai (3,852 sqm) split into seven legal parcels, had been a lightning rod since construction began in 2008. Lambasted initially as a colossal eyesore on the Pattaya skyline, the mammoth black concrete tower soared above the Prince Chumphon monument, which was meant to be the highest point in Pattaya.
Its opponents eventually succeeded in stopping development, winning a decision to have the tower reduced by three stories. However, the military-appointed leaders that took over Pattaya in 2015 went even further, claiming the condo encroached on public land and had to be torn down.
The project’s backers, government and individual buyers remain neck deep in legal conflicts. The key to the controversy is the seven different legal plots that were pieced together to allow construction.
Courts ruled the title deeds were illegally granted, but legal fights over compensation continue.