Could this be the year for Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rican Flag
Adam Greenfader, Managing Partner, AG&T

It had been almost 12 months since my last visit to Puerto Rico. Thanks to the COVID lockdown expectations were low. The last time I visited, more than 2 years after hurricanes Irma and Maria, the devastation was still overwhelming.  Streets were lined with garbage, electrical lines in disrepair, and thousands of homes had roofs covered in blue tarps. This combined with more than ten years of economic recession made has made Puerto Rico extremely pessimistic. As I landed in Luis Munoz Marin Airport, I was thinking,  “Would the ensuing earthquakes and COVID pandemic ravage the economy even more…”

I travelled the entire island from coast to coast –  100 x 35 miles, in a two week period. I drove from San Juan to Aguadilla, Mayaguez, Ponce, Humacao, Fajardo, and Ocean Park.  The roads were in good condition, the street lights working, and many buildings newly painted.  Notwithstanding the COVID crisis, the economy was bustling.  Most palpable was the positive attitude and feeling of the people. I spoke with many colleagues and friends and was told that much of the hurricane insurance had circulated through the economy.  The 8-12 billion in Federal relief from CDBG-DR is expected by early 2021.  Homemade signs seeking construction workers can be seen throughout the island that read, “Se Solicita Carpinteros y Albanilles”.

 

While the tourists were clearly absent ‘en mass’, a handful of new boutique hotels, especially in San Juan, have been recently delivered between 2019-2020. Much of this new hotel activity is due in part to the Tourism Tax Incentive. The tax incentive provides up to 40% of the total project’s cost back to sponsors…incredibly, some of it can be used for funding as part of the initial capital stack.  While this is not common anywhere in the world, Puerto Rico’s is not a typical Caribbean destination. The total economic activity (GDP) in Puerto Rico is less than 7% for all tourism related activities.  This includes, hotels, trades, conventions, excursions, etc..   This is an astonishing low number for an island that is surrounded by warm water, beautiful beaches, and lush landscapes. Read more about why Puerto Rico is like this at: https://www.agandt.com/wordpress/contact-why-puerto-rico-now/

These tax incentives combined with a team of dedicated individuals in the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) –  Discover Puerto Rico and other Public Private Partnerships (Invest Puerto Rico) is helping to make Puerto Rico a thriving tourism destination. The island currently boats some of the top hotels in the Caribbean with ADR’s over $1,500 per night.  Much of this demand is generated by the Act 20/22 (now Act 60).  For the last five years, hundreds of high net worth US individuals have moved to Puerto Rico to take advantage of zero Federal capital gains.  Act 60 has resulted in over 500 families and hundreds of new business moving to Puerto Rico.  There seems to be no end in sight for these new Americans living in Puerto Rico.  

Dorado Beach

This week Puerto Rico also inaugurated for the first time in over 20 years, the same political party. The PNP or US Statehood party won the election with a mandate for political stability, reduced corruption, and closer ties with the United States. While the island’s economic crisis is far from over, the COVID pandemic has put Puerto Rico back in the spotlight for its manufacturing proficiency. The island of Puerto Rico is one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical destinations – producing more than the top 5 US States combined. As thousands of jobs come back to the USA-Puerto Rico, invariably many will end up where the cost of labor is 15% less expensive, and there is a 60 year culture of robust manufacturing.

 
Grand Reserve
Grand Reserve

So is this the year for Puerto Rico?  Strong yes if you are involved with affordable housing, luxury resorts, alternative energy and critical manufacturing.

While we at AG&T do not have the proverbial ‘crystal ball’ on the island’s long term economic growth, things feel like they are on the right track and we will have more clarity with the resolution to the island’s bond crisis, the electrical authority privatization (AEE), and the completion of the responsibilities of The Fiscal Oversight and Managemnt Board for Puerto Rico. 

New Hotel Announced in St. Maarten

Site Plan of Hotel

INDIGO BAY–Two prominent real estate development firms have partnered with Cay Bay Development (CBD) NV, the master developer at Indigo Bay Development, to propose the development of a US $220 million luxury hotel resort and condos in St. Maarten.  AG&T provided advisory services and a group of independent real estate brokers led by Adam Greenfader at Oceanfront International Group at Douglas Elliman coordinated the transaction. 

 

 

The proposed high-end hotel development at Indigo Bay Development,  is expected to feature certain luxury accommodations and five-star amenities, including 94 hotel rooms and suites, and 130 residential homes. Additionally, the proposed hotel development is expected to feature large water ponds and greenery areas in keeping with its eco-centric vision, as well as an extensive public parking area for public beach access to Indigo Bay.

  “The timing for such a development could not have come at a more opportune time, as country St. Maarten is tasked with creating new and innovative strategies to counter the global economic crisis due to the pandemic,”.

In an economy whereby hospitality and tourism are at the centre of its recovery, it is expected that the development of a high-end branded hotel in St. Maarten would provide an enormous boost to this endeavour by enhancing several areas in tourism.

 

Hotel Concept at Indigo Bay

 

According to the release it can enhance St. Maarten’s global attractiveness as a prime tourist destination; increase hotel accommodation by approximately 20 per cent; increase the number of annual visitors to St. Maarten by 32,000 based on hotel occupancy of 65 per cent (double) and an average stay of five nights; and attract high value tourists who may choose St. Maarten as a vacation destination as opposed to accessing surrounding islands through its air and sea ports of entry, it was stated in the release.

The proposed world-class hotel development, once completed, will be managed by an internationally-recognised hotel brand, which will lend itself to greater global recognition, the release said. The projected marketed average daily rate (ADR) for hotel rooms at the proposed new hotel development is expected to be substantially higher than the current average daily rates on St. Maarten.

The CBD and the principals of the proposed hotel development seek to assure that the interest of the citizenry and of the environment are paramount to their endeavor.  Six acres of the overall hotel site of about 18 acres is projected as a green zone, including the retention ponds that were originally constructed at Indigo Bay Development by CBD. 

For more information about Caribbean hotel opportunities contact us 

Puerto Rico Ready for Development

Ponce Paradise

A Beachfront Acre For $30K In An OZ? Welcome To Puerto Rico

Published by Deidra Funcheon, Bisnow Miami

Puerto Rico was already struggling from decades of fiscal mismanagement and had just declared bankruptcy over its $123B debt when it was hit by two hurricanes in September 2017 — only to run into a botched disaster response. The way some see it, though, rock bottom is behind Puerto Rico, and the island is in the early stages of an upswing. “Puerto Rico is setting an incredible pace for economic recovery,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, a destination marketing organization that promotes the commonwealth. “Airport arrivals are exceeding pre-Hurricane Maria levels, as are lodging revenues. Given the quick rebound, reinvestment in hotel product and tremendous potential for the island’s tourism industry, this is Puerto Rico’s time. From an investor’s perspective, there’s never been a better time to invest in the island’s tourism industry.”

Buildings and infrastructure are still being repaired and upgraded, and the government has instituted a full slate of tax incentives to lure investors, said AG&T Managing Partner Adam Greenfader, who advises clients from his base in Miami. “You can still acquire assets for 50 cents on the dollar,” he said. “Beachfront land in Puerto Rico today can still be acquired at $30K an acre.” Dean and Greenfader will be panelists at Bisnow’s Caribbean Hospitality & Tourism Summit Aug. 1. Puerto Rico’s economic spiral goes back decades. After World War II, it gave big tax breaks to manufacturers, and to cover for revenue shortfalls, issued more bonds than it could repay. In turn, it implemented austerity measures that did little except drive the population away. Its problems were exacerbated by that fact that it has no voting power in Congress.

Greenfader outlined some key developments toward a turnaround. Puerto Rico’s cash-strapped government has tried to lure investors with laws like Acts 20 and 22, passed in 2012 and designed so that people who move to the island pay little or no federal income tax, even on passive investments. Greenfader said this has attracted 250 to 500 families per year, including big names such as billionaire John Paulson.  Other incentives include one that lets people with tourism-related projects get back 40% or 50% of their acquisition costs.  

 

Development Land
80 Acres in Naguabo, Puerto Rico

 

Puerto Rico’s massive government debt is currently being sorted out by a federal oversight board. “The major bonds, COFINA and GO, have been renegotiated and the bondholders have been put into payment plans,” Greenfader said.  Since the 2017 hurricanes, federal disaster aid — including $1.4B authorized in June — has trickled in. Hotels damaged in the storms were forced to remodel or rebuild and are now offering better products at higher rates. Many are incorporating solar and microgrids to be resilient for the future. The storms raised the profile of Puerto Rico — one study found that prior to them hitting, about half of Americans hadn’t known the commonwealth was part of the U.S. Airport arrivals and tourism revenue have already set records this year. On top of this, Puerto Rico is the beneficiary of community development block grant funding, and 97% of the entire commonwealth — much of it beachfront — has been designated a qualified opportunity zone. “Puerto Rico never had a 1031 exchange, so from a tax perspective, it’s the first time it’s getting capital gains money,” Greenfader said.  

Lifeafar Investments Chief Financial Officer Cole Shephard, who will also be a panelist at the Bisnow event, said his Colombia-based company is already taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s investment climate, raising $16M in an opportunity fund to reposition a 61-room hotel. Shephard said Lifeafar, which started by offering real estate services to expats in Medellín, was drawn by the tax incentives and that the opportunity zone designation was a bonus. He is now doing due diligence on additional properties. “I see the sophisticated money chasing metro San Juan,” he said, suggesting that there is a lot of opportunity for small to mid-market projects outside of the city. Not everything in Puerto Rico is rosy. 

Development Land
29 Acres in Isabella, Puerto Rico

 

As the government has scrambled to generate revenue, sales tax was raised to 11.5%, pensions have been cut, college tuition increased and some 300 public schools closed. Critics have complained that wealthy investors have been protected while ordinary Puerto Ricans suffer. “The locals have had to carry the brunt of these austerity measures,” Greenfader acknowledged. “I’d understand completely, if I see a guy who’s a hedge fund manager with $500M earnings pay hardly any taxes, versus the regular guy paying 35% taxes who’s a salaried worker at Bacardi,” Shepherd said. But Shepherd added that conversations with Puerto Rican officials convinced him they have carefully calculated the tradeoff and found that luring private investment now will help island residents long-term, even though it may take years for the effects to be obvious.

Greenfader suggested that boosting tourism is a winning solution for both investors and residents. Because Puerto Rico since the Kennedy era has been focused on manufacturing, its tourism industry was relatively neglected. The industry now accounts for less than 7% of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product. In other Caribbean islands, that number is typically between 30% and 80%. Dean’s destination marketing organization, Discover Puerto Rico, was established last year to actively promote tourism. Bisnow’s Aug. 1 Caribbean Hospitality & Tourism Summit will also include Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Executive Director Carla Campos, Hilton VP for Development Juan Corvinos Solans, Puerto Rico Builders Association President Ing. Emilio Colón Zavala and more. 

Event Ended On: Thursday August 1 2019

Thor equities buys an entire block in wynwood for 41.5 Million

Thor Equities just paid $41.5 million for more than an entire block in Wynwood, a missing piece that gives it one square block and marks the largest deal ever in the red-hot Miami neighborhood, The Real Deal has learned.

New York-based Thor Equities, led by Joseph Sitt, bought 2800 Northwest Second Avenue, a 100,000-square-foot site running from Northwest 29th Street to Northwest 28th Street at Wynwood’s northern entrance. The corner site includes five existing buildings totaling 45,000 square feet, and also features 300 feet of frontage on Northwest Second Avenue and a 16,500-square-foot parking lot, a Thor spokesperson told TRD.

The property has development rights in excess of 600,000 square feet, and the plan for the site includes a mix of retail, residential, hotel and/or office uses, the spokesperson said.

The seller is Lehman Family Partnership Ltd., headed by Dennis J. Lehman, as trustee, according to public records. The entity had paid $200,000 for the parcels in 1995. The properties have been the 68-year home of Lehman Pipe & Plumbing Supply.

Bruce Koniver, principal of Koniver Stern Group brokered the deal, representing the seller. The firm was the only broker involved in the transaction. Koniver said he has known Lehman since 7th grade, and began marketing the property a few months ago.

“There was a hit list of potential buyers we reached out to, and fortunately enough Thor was on that list,” Koniver told TRD.

Thor’s latest purchase gives it the entire square block between Northwest Second Avenue and Northwest Third Avenue and between Northwest 28th Street and Northwest 29th Street. Its latest Wynwood purchase is adjacent to 2801 Northwest Third Avenue, a 105,000-square-foot, seven-parcel site that the real estate investment and development firm purchased from David Edelstein for $26.9 million in May.

The huge real estate investment firm, which has been expanding its holdings in Wynwood, also owns 2722 Northwest Second Avenue in Wynwood, as well as additional properties in the Design District and on Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.

Wynwood, known for its artsy vibe, is a neighborhood transforming with new retail stores and restaurants. Among new retailers are Warby Parker, Illesteva and Marine Layer. New restaurants include Wynwood Diner and the Lunchbox. The area is also home to art galleries and one of the largest open-air street art installations in the world including Wynwood Walls, creative offices and showrooms.

The city of Miami’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board recently approved a slate of changes to zoning and land use designations that would allow denser residential developments on roughly 205 acres in Wynwood. The recommendations must still be finalized by the city commission.

“The already burgeoning Wynwood Art District is primed for a mixed-use, residential rezoning that will spur further development, and accelerate its ongoing transformation from an underutilized industrial area into a true live-work-play community,” Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities, said in a statement.