RCA Route66
Route66 is one of many popular nightclubs in Bangkok's RCA district.

The iconic Bangkok entertainment street known as Royal City Avenue – RCA – is set to undergo a major transformation, signaling the end of an era.

The prime location, spanning 62 rai (approximately 10 hectares), is currently under the management of Narai Ruamphiphat Co., a subsidiary of the Bangkok Bank Group, which is owned by the Sophonpanich family. The company has held a 30-year lease from the State Railway of Thailand for this centrally located property.

While the initial lease expired in October, the SRT has granted temporary lease extensions on a yearly basis, awaiting further developments. SRT Asset Co., a subsidiary, is now studying the project’s potential for development and preparing to open the bidding process for new proposals. These decisions are being driven by the evolving landscape surrounding the area, which includes the advent of electric trains and various other development projects.

Consequently, the fate of current tenants hangs in the balance, as they vie for the opportunity to continue their operations or face the prospect of being replaced. The SRT’s forthcoming lease agreement is poised to shake things up in RCA.

SRT Gov. Nirut Maneephan has confirmed that the RCA land, situated along Rama 9 Road and the Bang Sue-Klong Tan railway line, will be reassigned to a subsidiary of the SRT for operation. The three separate plots currently leased by Narai Ruampipat Co. will be consolidated into a single plot and developed to suit the changing dynamics of the area.

Hot ladies – not hookers – can be found in every club on RCA.

“The lease is set to expire, and although temporary extensions have been granted until the end of 2024, there will be no option for the same tenant to renew their contract. Instead, we will open the bidding process, fostering competition. Once combined into a larger plot, this will result in higher rental rates and greater yields compared to the previously enjoyed cheap rentals,” emphasized Nirut.

The RCA plot, although narrow at the front, extends deep to Makkasan Police Station, making it conveniently accessible. It is in close proximity to the MRT Central Rama 9 Shopping Center Station, which serves the Blue Line.

Over time, the surrounding area has witnessed significant changes. The front zone boasts notable establishments such as Route 66 and Old Leng, renowned for their food and beverages. Meanwhile, a new nightclub is currently under construction. Many Chinese restaurants, convenience stores, rice and curry shops, and RCA Plaza can be found along both sides of the road. Commercial and office buildings, both undergoing renovations and closing down, add to the evolving landscape.

RCA Starting to Disappear

Road usage fees have also been implemented, with general customers paying a parking fee of 10 baht for the first hour and an additional 10 baht for each subsequent hour. Shops and companies displaying a seal are entitled to three hours of free parking, after which an additional 10 baht per hour is charged.

According to local sources, several old buildings have already vacated the area following the expiration of their leases. For instance, an eight-story building that previously housed Bangkok Life Insurance and Asia Cement has relocated to other areas, now available for short-term rentals. However, most Chinese restaurants and pubs continue to operate, catering to both Thai and foreign patrons who still frequent the area.

Meanwhile, the Sophonpanich group is spearheading real estate development projects in the vicinity, including the I-House Condominium project in RCA, an entrance-exit link to the area, and the mixed-use project behind Piyavate Hospital, which comprises Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok City Campus, Maitria Hotel, and Maitria Residence, a serviced apartment available for rent.

These projects, spearheaded by the Sophonpanich group, will further shape the evolving landscape around RCA.

With the lease agreement set to expire and the SRT preparing to open bidding for new proposals, the fate of RCA hangs in the balance.

Will current tenants secure their place in the transformed entertainment district, or will new players step in to take their spot? Only time will tell as the iconic RCA enters a new chapter, leaving behind a legendary era of entertainment and welcoming the winds of change.