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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > 2012 > 2012 Issue 07 > An interview with Kulateep ‘Star’ Chawla of Star Avenue projects

An interview with Kulateep ‘Star’ Chawla of Star Avenue projects

Citylife and CityNews followers are probably already aware of the numerous commercial developments taking place in and around the city. You may have also seen some of the tell_tale muddy building sites accompanied by huge billboards of beautiful people frolicking and smiling in happiness by various roadsides.

While many projects are from foreign or Bangkok investors, there are some malls which are home grown. Kulateep Chawla, better known as Khun Star, owner of the Star Avenue malls, sits down to talk mall with Citylife.

• Citylife:
What is your background?

• Star:
My great grandparents came from India before the partition; they are from today’s Pakistan. They lost everything following the partition. When my great grandfather came to Thailand he had nothing. He started selling cloths, which he would import from contacts in India and Burma. My grandfather took on the family trade and eventually my father, who was born in India, and family moved permanently to Chiang Mai where they opened shop in Warorot market. My family business grew to specialise in soft furnishing products. We then moved on to also sell laminate flooring, and eventually began a construction company providing customers with a complete property creation service.

Citylife:
Where did the inspiration for the Star Avenue projects come from?

Star:
I was raised in a typical Thai commercial building. We compromised on quality of life because the old style buildings let in very little natural light and fresh air. There was a gap in the market for human friendly commercial property, so we decided to do it ourselves.

Citylife:
How environmentally friendly are your buildings?

Star:
Because of the design, our buildings consume less energy for air-conditioning and lighting.

Citylife:
Do you really believe in being environmentally friendly or is it just because it’s economical?

Star:
Well I agree it’s trendy. But it’s also an investment which will save money on bills in the future.

Citylife:
Some people believe large malls will spoil Chiang Mai do you agree?

Star:
There are always two sides to the coin but I believe we cannot resist change.

The malls are spread out in Chiang Mai so the main beauty will remain intact. And it’s only ever just a short drive out in to the mountains anyway. I think we will actually make Chiang Mai people proud.

Citylife:
How much have you invested so far?

Star:
We invested 220 million baht in Star Avenue 1 and 550 million baht in Star Avenue 2. It has been a risky project loaning these amounts of money from the banks. For Star Avenue 1, I have already made my return which was setting the new standard for commercial buildings in Chiang Mai. Many people have copied our designs.

Citylife:
What makes you different from the other malls?

Star:
At the moment we are the only lifestyle mall. A lifestyle mall isn’t heavily focused on shopping but is one where you can come to relax and hangout. We want to offer mind therapy to the people who visit, and make sure everyone leaves with a piece of happiness. We want to be the pad krapao of hangout places, the one staple that people think of first.

Citylife:
Have you got any plans for future projects?

Star:
Last year I went to Europe and saw many people riding bikes in The Netherlands. A Dutch guy told me The Netherlands recently gave Chiang Mai 10 million baht to create bike lanes. When I came back I noticed the lanes were very badly designed and confusing; the designers were obviously not cyclists. And this is the same for the footpaths here, whoever designed them weren’t walkers either! In the future I would like to build a project which has decent footpaths and bike lanes around it. I would love for some influential organisation like Chiang Mai University to be inspired to create more like it in the city.

www.star-avenue.com