CostalegreCostalegre is very much like a private club that few are privy to. That’s the principal reason it has remained as it is for so long. There are about eight very large landowners who are quite content for things to remain as they are. These landowners have established for themselves urban plans that involve very low-density development, protecting the ecology and natural environment. Most recently, many of their self-imposed regulations have been adopted by the local municipalities (which, actually, are more like large counties) and are now part of their “Plan de Desarollo,” or Ordinance Plan.
As the government works on infrastructure and better access, real estate development is underway—at differing stages—by a few “players” in the region. There are six to eight major players with parcels of around 1000 hectares along Costalegre. (To put that in perspective, Punta Mita, probably the most well-known mega-development in Costa Vallarta, consists of only 600 hectares.) These owners dominate the region and have considerable influence regarding the region’s development. A number of them have created a businessmen’s association for the region (Asociacion de Empresarios de Costalegre) to work with the government to improve regional infrastructure and assure that there are strong, enforceable rules in place regarding development. There also are probably another 10 smaller players with 200 to 500 hectares, interspersed with ejidatario communities along this whole coastline.
With these plans in place and the land, still mostly ejido, in the process of being regularized, change is taking place. Large tracts of land are becoming available, and a few large investment groups are establishing master development proposals involving small boutique hotels and low-density homes, home sites and condominium opportunities with common amenities such as golf and marinas—but more are just providing the natural environment with its estuaries, rolling sand dunes and incredible beaches just as they are.
But it takes time. Just converting the land from ejido to deeded title can take years. It means working closely with the ejidatarios, having them sign through the complicated processes so that land can be titled and they can benefit from it.
Costalegre is, for the most part, a long-term investment. This is still a place of large-tract parcel sales, which tend to be long-term commitments. There is little or no flipping taking place here, as occurred in Vallarta and especially Riviera Nayarit. That has been the case for years and it still is—the client profile for this coastline is definitely a long-term investor.
There are a few new players who want to see growth, but fortunately share the same common vision (for the most part) of low-density, high-value real estate development. And now the Jalisco state government has been motivated, envious of all the attention Riviera Nayarit has received, to get more involved and provide much needed infrastructure.
The two closest airports are in Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo (with limited international connections), meaning that a two-plus-hour drive is still needed to reach much of Costalegre. The government has committed to a number of projects—the first being the construction of an international airport. The first step is currently underway and should be finished sometime this year. However, that’s just the runway, which will be fine for private jets, but any further development, such as an airport facility, will have to wait until there is more demand for flights into this region. This means there needs to be a supply of hotel rooms and real estate projects—but more on that shortly.
The second project involves improving the existing highway system. The first step will involve widening the stretch of highway from Boca de Tomatlan to El Tuito, the most difficult part of the whole Costalegre highway as it winds south of Vallarta through the mountains to the coastal plains. Work will begin in 2010 and will take a few years, but it will cut at least a half hour of driving time to principal destinations in Costalegre when finished. The second step involves improving and widening the highway from La Huerta to Melaque, which will give faster access from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, cutting access time to about three or three and a half hours for most destinations in Costalegre. Two other highway projects involve the roads to Cabo Corrientes and Tehuamixtle out of El Tuito, improving the existing roads that wind through the mountains to the coastline, which will not be easy to do or inexpensive. Work has begun on the road to Tehua, with roughly 14 of the 42 km now paved.
Another part of this road improvement program involves building a “macro-libramiento,” town bypass, or “periferico” for Puerto Vallarta. Work begun last year can be seen behind Vallarta, but work stopped recently. It’s an ambitious and expensive project that would provide another route—a faster route—around the city, allowing people from the airport or the north to bypass Vallarta if their destination is Costalegre. Once built, this could cut access time to Costalegre by half, including time saved with the completion of the Boca-Tuito amplification project.
There are a number of projects either currently active or with ambitious plans to enter the market sometime in the near future. But there are three that could be classified as mega-developments and would have the biggest impact on this coastline. There are other land parcels as large or larger, but since they do not have plans for development—at least, not at this time—we’ll focus on those that do: Careyes, Chala and Aquiles Serdan.
Careyes is probably the most well known development on the coastline, attracting the rich and famous for years. Careyes is the vision of the father and son team of Gian Franco and Giorgio Brignone. About 40 spectacular cliff- and hillside homes, some of the most impressive in Mexico, can be found here. For years its elite visitors have stayed in these homes, or casitas, or at the El Careyes boutique hotel. Development has been slow, but purposeful. The result is one of the most coveted coastlines in the world. Eight new homes are in development, located on the high hillside above the bay of Careyes, called Casitas de Constelacion. Every home comes with its own star named after it! They have also just completed Plaza de los Caballeros del Sol in a nearby village, which is multi-functional, serving as a civic and cultural center, movie theater and more, improving the community for both residents and visitors to the region.
Careyes is not what you really would call a mega-development (although it certainly is large enough to be one). But it is significant because of the impact the Brignones have had in Costalegre in providing leadership in the region and assuring it remains low-density with high-value real estate, as well as their strong involvement and support of the regional communities.
To the north of Careyes, just past Las Alamandas, lies what is currently referred to as Chala—a project by Rasaland Development consisting of 1200 hectares with more than 8 km of beachfront. The master plan consists of five hotel sites, an 18-hole golf course and a variety or residential opportunities. Nearly completely surrounded by water, Chala is an amazing piece of property, with ocean to the west, an estuary to the east and north (with just a narrow stretch of sand separating the estuary and ocean) and a second estuary to the south. With 20 km around its perimeter, nearly 18 are waterfront. Chala is expected to go actively online sometime in 2012.
Rasaland Development brings to Costalegre a model of development that seems to fit well with the other players on the coast and bodes well for future developers. The development is based on three principles: to protect and preserve the environment, to improve the well-being of the existing community and, of course, to provide a return on investment for the investors. The second is an interesting one, which Rasaland has already begun to implement as they have gone through the ejido-to-deeded-property process. They plan to improve the town and infrastructure and, most importantly, to provide badly needed jobs by providing education and training so residents in this area will have first opportunity at employment.
However, at Cabo Corrientes, the southerly most point of Banderas Bay, a large development called Aquiles Serdan, involving approximately 1000 hectares, has been regularized and is being marketed in 100- to 200-hectare parcels. The purchase, regularization and development process was undertaken by a New York investment fund in collaboration with La Punta Realty. It took them over two and a half years to work through the regularization process, just recently receiving title. Access to Aquiles Serdan is currently difficult. There are two roads leading to the coast from El Tuito, the one to Tehuamixtle in better condition. From Tehua there’s a road that winds northwest along the coast, first to the small town of Aquiles Serdan and then to the beach of Aquiles Serdan where this development is situated.
To be continued…