3.1 Introduction

The annual shareholders’ meeting of social enterprise Chanthaboon Rakdee Co. Ltd. unfolds within the rural atmosphere of the Baan Luang Rajamaitri historic inn, a local a beacon of cultural preservation and sustainable community engagement. As shareholders gather in a room, the air buzzes with a palpable sense of anticipation. Here, the community not only reviews the past year’s successes and challenges but also shapes the future of their beloved Chanthaboon waterfront. The blending of authentic traditional architectural details with contemporary discussions about sustainability and community engagement perfectly mirrors the dual spirit of their mission. 

At the heart of this gathering stands Khun Moo, the respected Director of Chanthaboon Rakdee and manager of two historic hotels under the company’s stewardship. Her role extends beyond managerial duties, she is a vital link between the enterprise and the Chanthaboon waterfront community. Originally from Chanthaburi province, Khun Moo’s personal passion for the historic community’s unique culture drew her frequently to Chanthaburi city. Her professional expertise in community development, combined with a decade of experience, has equipped her to be an essential part of the revitalization efforts in the waterfront neighborhood since the historic inn’s establishment in 2014.

The Chanthaboon waterfront community, located in Chanthaburi, the capital of Chanthaburi Province, is a vital proof of Thailand’s rich cultural diversity and historical depth. This historic neighborhood, with its narrow lanes and quaint architecture, reflects a blend of local Thai and European colonial influences, mirroring the diverse trading history that once thrived in this riverside setting. The local community, deeply rooted in tradition, has been instrumental in preserving its heritage while adapting to the contemporary needs of tourism and modern living.

The community’s transformation was fueled by a unique partnership between local volunteers, the Chanthaburi Provincial Commerce Office, and the Arsom Silp Institute. These efforts expanded beyond mere preservation to include the active engagement of the community in the conservation process, setting a precedent for cultural heritage management. This approach has been characterized by a focus on community benefits rather than just tourism, with strategies aimed at maintaining an authentic local lifestyle while fostering economic vitality.

The Chanthaboon Rakdee Co. Ltd. social enterprise is dedicated to more than just the conservation of buildings; it aims to foster community empowerment and economic vitality through its projects. The restoration of the Baan Luang Rajamaitri Historic Inn, a site of significant architectural value, has not only garnered the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2015 but has also sparked a broader movement toward sustainable community development. With its shareholder funding model, this social enterprise serves as a blueprint for how heritage can be a vehicle for community empowerment and economic vitality.

Through Khun Moo’s narrative, this case study explores how the historic Chanthaboon waterfront community embraces innovative revitalization strategies, leverages community-driven funding mechanisms, and balances development with preservation. However, the ongoing challenge lies in continuing to develop and implement strategies that respect and preserve the Chanthaboon waterfront’s unique cultural heritage while adapting to changing conditions and needs. This requires development of innovative solutions to ensure the long-term viability of the community’s social and economic landscape. This case study invites us to explore how a community-driven social enterprise can evolve to meet these demands, ensuring the longevity and vibrancy of the community heritage.