For even the most casual observer of island life, Phuket’s high-velocity transformation into an increasingly urbanized maze is on parade day in and day out for the entire world to see.
The once quiet streets of Phuket Town have changed into a cityscape (and yes Phuket City is indeed the correct tag, given its official upgrading a number of years ago). Let’s not even talk about what often appears to be a long vertical parking lot that is more widely known as Thepkassatri Road for much of each day.
By no means have I fallen into the haters camp or those who would wish to rewind the clock a few decades. Time passes in Phuket, just like it does in very other island across the universe. Reality has bitten hard much like a rabid dog and times have changed.
What hasn’t changed is the lack of a comprehensive master plan for the island and vision past 2020 of how this whole urban trend will play out. From a provincial government standpoint the starring role tends to revolve and the agenda on various administrations changes swiftly and often.
Most city planners understand the evolution of progress and the need to address swift upticks in population growth, transportation, housing, commerce and all those add on’s such as schools, public utilities etc… Life does not stand still, nor is Phuket and the surge in private sector investment is sprinting ahead of the public sector in an Usain Bolt moment.
As land prices continue to surge in Phuket City, Patong and other densely populate areas the clearest way to address change would be to re-zone certain areas for high-rise development in similar fashion to Bangkok or even Pattaya. Part of the process would incentivize businesses to modernize with stimulated GFA as the incentive, both sides of the table win. Part of the process would incorporate increased parking ratios and fees paid into the province to cover additional public infrastructure.
Urban footprints have worked in many other parts of the world with Honolulu in Hawaii standing out as one of the best examples where the tourism industry has been able to maintain it’s economic prominence without sacrificing widespread growth.
To sum it up, is the island’s best legacy to be row after row after row of those inglorious shop houses that clutter the landscape where ever you turn? Or is it time for Phuket to understand it’s birthright and accept urbanization, and perhaps get a little in front of the curve instead of rapidly losing site of the horizon.