Why Puerto Rico Now – Interview

Why Puerto Rico Interview
Why Puerto Rico Now interview with Adam Greenfader of AG&T and Robbie Karver of PR Consultants.  The interview was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the recent Investor Mastermind conference.  

 

To receive access to an advance version of Why Puerto Rico Now. Register Here. 

Together they discuss investment opportunities in Puerto Rico. In this interview, Adam and Robbie discuss why the island is ready for great growth. They also explain why the island’s economy may provide insulation from some of the global economic issues causing the recession.  Below are some excerpts from the book. Coming soon and launching in September 2022. 

In every crisis, there is an opportunity. 

Today, we find ourselves recovering from a worldwide pandemic. Supply line challenges caused by COVID 19 has made the production, distribution, and storage of critical supplies a top national priority. Puerto Rico, with over 70 years of critical manufacturing experience, is in an ideal position to lead the fight against COVID 19 for the United States. In the midst of all these challenges, there are silver linings. 

Today, Puerto Rico is about to receive the largest allocation of Federal relief funds in U.S. History.

 In what is being called Operation Bootstrap 2.0., Puerto Rico will receive over 80 billion dollars. This includes money to  construct homes, critical infrastructure, renewable energy, and other vital projects.

In addition to relief funds, Puerto Rico and the Internal Revenue Service have created a series of tax incentives. Their goal is to bring in new businesses and people to the island. Act 20/22 (now Act 60) had the unintended consequence of attracting a new breed of entrepreneurs – blockchain and crypto investors. Suddenly, Puerto Rico finds itself leading a technological revolution with thousands of people bringing new ideas, connections, and capital to the island.

To receive access to an advance version of Why Puerto Rico Now. Register Here. 

The Puerto Rico Symposium in Miami With Historic Announcement

 

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See Agenda and Sponsors

 

The Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi made the historic announcement at The Puerto Rico Symposium in Miami that Puerto Rico was officially out of bankruptcy. The message was well received by over 250 industry leaders from both the public and private sectors.  The event was organized by The Urban Land Institute South East Florida / Caribbean and The Puerto Rico Builders Association.

 

Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Governor Pedro Pierluisi makes historic announcement

 

The Symposium was kicked-off by Scott McLaren, President ULI SE Florida / Caribbean. Scott spoke about the longstanding relationship and collaboration between ULI and the Puerto Rico Builders Association. He highlighted the work on the ULI National Advisory Services Panel on social, economic, and physical resilience in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. https://seflorida.uli.org/toa-baja-puerto-rico-panel/

Scott Maclaren finished his remarks by recognizing  Vanessa de Mari, the new President of the Puerto Rico Builders Association and the first women president in the organization’s 70 year history. The Symposium was dedicated to this historic accomplishment. In attendance were some of Puerto Rico’s top government leaders.  This included the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico, Manuel Laboy, COR3 Executive Director,  Maretzie Diaz, Deputy Director PR Housing Department CDBG-DR, Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and in attendance, the Secretary of Housing of Puerto Rico, William Rodríguez Rodríguez. The keynote address by the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico’s highlighted the island’s economic accomplishments, the end of Puerto Rico’s population exodus, and the conclusion of the bankruptcy which was officially announced the day of the Symposium.

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/puerto-rico-is-out-of-bankruptcy-after-a-22-billion-debt-exchange-1.1738142

In the private sector, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, CEO, Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon discussed some of progress of the island’s rebuilding after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. The reconstruction of the island was  a constant theme throughout the day with specific examples of over 900 started projects.

The first panel, “Why Puerto Rico: Stories of Success,  was a testament to the resiliency of the development community. Moderated by Andrew Carlson, SVP Country Manager, of JLL the discussion highlighted the historic growth of the island’s hospitality sector with the construction and/or renovation of over 3,000 new room keys from El Conquistador, Grand Reserve (formerly known as Coco Beach), Sheraton, AC , and many others. The panel included Federico Sanchez, President & CEO, Interlink Group.

 

Speakers Panel
Dan Kodsi, Brad Dean, Rafael Rojo, Andrew Carson

 

Dan Kodsi, CEO, Royal Palm Companies, Rafael E. Rojo, President & CEO, VRM Companies. Also in attendance was Brad Dean, CEO, Discover Puerto Rico who highlighted the island’s impressive tourism growth (ADR and occupancy rates) during the Covid 19 pandemic and new expansion of tourism throughout all U.S. feeder markets.

As Puerto Rico seeks to build back its tourism and other industries, the financial sector will invariably play a major role. One of the goals of the Puerto Rico Symposium was to facilitate the conversation of growth in both traditional banking as well as new Fintech, IFEs, and other debt/equity players.  Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, explained the ease of regulations and process for new financial institutions as Puerto Rico shares many of the same regulations of the U.S. states on the mainland. Ms. Zequeira also mentioned that International Financial Entities (IFE) can now participate in special opportunity projects.

https://www.investpr.org/key-sectors/finance-and-insurance/

Michael McDonnell, Executive Vice President, First Bank, that recently re-opened its  construction division, was bullish on the island’s economic prospects and announced that the Puerto Rico will achieve positive economic growth (GDP) this year– something it has not done in over a decade.  Banesco USA announced the U.S. Department of the Treasury, will invest more than $8.7 billion through ECIP in institutions across the country – Banesco USA is the only bank recipient located in Florida or Puerto Rico.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/banesco-usa-approved-to-receive-237-5-million-investment-from-the-us-treasurys-emergency-capital-investment-program-301445832.html

Over the last few years, we have all hear about the 80 billion dollars of relief aid that has been allocated to Puerto Rico and is coming. In the “Myth versus Reality panel: Federal Funding Opportunities on The Island,” moderator Ella Woger Nieves of Invest Puerto Rico helped lift-up the proverbial transparency veil. Manuel Laboy, the COR3 Executive Director spoke with detailed facts of the funding by agency with FEMA authorizing 5 billion for temporary work, 21 Billion for 9,000 permanent projects and 800 that are currently under construction today. He also discussed the next wave of over 900 projects that are currently under engineering and design.  Much of this work will be channeled through CDBG-DR and the PR Housing Department. Maretzie Diaz, the Deputy Director PR Housing Department, explained the process for companies wanting to participate in the island’s rebuilding of housing and infrastructure. Mahdu Beriwal, Owner/founder of EIM provided first-hand knowledge of the rebuilding work in Puerto Rico.

 

Adam Greenfader, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Pamela Pautenade, Vanessa de Mari, Alfredo Martinez, Emilion Colon

 

Keynote Speaker Pamela Pautenade, Ex. Deputy Secretary of HUD, was also on hand to share her experiences about the collaboration with the Puerto Rico Builders Association during the 2017 hurricanes crisis. In a moving conversation with Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Mrs. Pautenade explained the dedication of the island’s public and private sectors and dispelled any rumors about misuse of relief funds.

 

Keynote Lunch Address
Andrew Farkas, Adam Greenfader

 

Puerto Rico, like much of the Caribbean is in the process of bouncing back from the Covid 19 pandemic.  Adam Greenfader, who chairs the ULI Caribbean Council had a high level sit down conversation with keynote Speaker Andrew Farkas, CEO Island Capital Group. The conversation was focused on social equity and specifically what  role the financial sector has in supporting the region with a particular focus on sustainability, ESG, and helping economic migrants return back to their island homes.

In the last few years Puerto Rico has become known as blockchain capital of the world. While thousands of tech savvy individuals have moved to the island to take advantage of federal tax incentives they have inadvertently created a new economic driver for the Puerto Rico.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-12-11/crypto-rich-are-moving-to-puerto-rico-world-s-new-luxury-tax-haven

 

In our “Fintech & Financial Innovation panel in Puerto Rico, Moderator Nathan Whigham, Founder & President, EN Capital discussed the growth of this huge industry. Rodrick Miller, CEO, Invest Puerto Rico, explained what his group is doing to change the paradigm in Puerto Rico from selling tax incentives to focusing on the island’s quality of labor, education system, and proficiency in bio science and other innovations. Stephen Inglis, CEO, Importal explained his new portal to monetize tax credits and  Yael Tamar, CEO & Co-founder, SolidBlock explained how her company is integrating real estate and blockchain.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/invest-puerto-rico-elevates-the-islands-role-as-a-global-bioscience-rd-and-manufacturing-hub-attracting-two-major-life-critical-investments-228m-in-new-activity-301221471.html

After a marathon day of conversation it was amazing to see the room still full for our last panel “Growth Industries and Tax Incentives” moderated by Carla Campos and an all-star team including  Jorge Ruiz Montilla, McConnel Valdez,  Francisco Luis, of Kevane Grant Thornton and Rogelio “Roy” Carrasquillo, of the Carrasquillo Law Group. In this panel, specific programs like the Tourism Tax Incentive were explained in detail and there was robust conversation regarding how these incentives have created new jobs in manufacturing, life sciences, construction, and agro-science.

 

On behalf of all of us at the Puerto Rico Builders Association and The Urban Land Institute SE Florida/ Caribbean, thank you to all of the people and sponsors that made The Puerto Rico Symposium possible. We are all hopeful that together both the public and private sector can create long lasting sustainable economic growth.

 

 

For more information about investing in Puerto Rico visit our web site or contact us.

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.

 

Adam Greenfader Shares New Opportunities in Puerto Rico

Adam Greenfader

Adam Greenfader, Managing partner of AG&T (7 minute video) speaks on new opportunities in Puerto Rico. Learning this video about the the island’s history and how you can learn from the past to generate real value and  long term economic growth. The video includes new information about tax incentives, the tourism tax incentive, Act 20/22, and other tax credits for real estate development. Contact us for more information and to learn about Why Puerto Rico Now

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.

 

ULI | Heitman Report

CLIMATE RISK AND REAL ESTATE

Excerpts from the 2020 ULI | Heitman Report.

ULI partnered with Heitman, a global real estate investment management firm, to assess the potential impacts of climate change on the long-term viability of real estate assets. Derived from a series of interviews with leading institutional investors, investment managers, investment consultants and others, the report provides members with an inside look at how real estate investors are factoring climate risk into their investment decision-making and management processes.

See full report at : https://knowledge.uli.org/en/Reports/Research%20Reports/2020/-/media/b81db4bbc77845f7834f24b0e974dd7a.ashx

ULI publishes this updated report amid a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. For many, it may feel as if the priority of addressing climate change is dissipating as we face the immediate challenge of COVID-19.  Although it is still too early to draw conclusions about the long-term implications of COVID-19 for our cities and the real estate industry, such a wide-scale humanitarian crisis throws the connections between environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and our economies into sharper focus.

However, just as the coronavirus has exposed many weaknesses, it has also shown us that we have the ability to adapt and change our behaviors quickly and radically.

Globally, most major economic hubs are in coastal, river delta, or other high-risk areas. These locations present many advantages, relating to connectivity, trade, quality of life and placemaking. These cities house more than half the global population, with much higher percentages of residents in some regions. About 80 percent of U.S. residents live in cities, for example, 39 percent of the European Union population lives in metro areas with 1 million or more inhabitants.

In 2020 (as of October 7), there have been 16 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each to affect the United States. These events included 1 drought event, 11 severe storm events, 3 tropical cyclone events, and 1 wildfire event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 188 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2019 annual average is 6.6 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2015–2019) is 13.8 events (CPI-adjusted).

Many of the most economically powerful coastal cities face significant climate risk. However, these cities offer some of the most attractive investment environments, meaning that the risk is worth the return. “We have a dilemma that some of the most attractive markets are also markets that are affected more by weather-related risks,” noted one real estate investment manager. However, a few investors indicated that they are beginning to suspend acquisitions or take steps to reduce their real estate footprint in city markets where they harbor climate-risk concerns. The phases after a big disaster, according to one interviewee, were to see the market buoyed up by subsidies and insurance, followed by rebuilding and speculative demand. This short-term “sugar high” of disaster support, insurance claims, and opportunistic investment likely masks underlying negative and fiscal impacts that could be exacerbated by future climate-related events (or other shocks).

The research found a number of misleading correlations, such as flooding having a positive impact on cash solvency and fiscal health, and hurricanes increasing budget solvency. However, the current model of contingencies will not be sustainable with the expected increase in the frequency and intensity of climate change impacts, as well as slow-moving stresses such as sea-level rise, which further exaggerate the effect of peak events. In other words, a weather-related event has not yet adequately “shocked” the system of contingencies as to break it. However, the COVID-19 crisis may prove to be the ultimate shock to the system that breaks it. What happens when that “extreme event” is no longer a geographically or temporally discrete event?

“There are three big mechanisms through which costs are likely to increase going forward: one is insurance, [and] the second area is . . . tax rates and the third is cost of financing as banks start to cost the added risk.

 BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, made headlines in January 2020 when Larry Fink, the firm’s CEO, stated in his annual letter on corporate governance that “climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects,” and “we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.” The BlackRock announcement signified an increasing industry prioritization of climate change mitigation, or efforts to prevent or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Most interviewees also expressed overall uncertainty about future insurance prices and the likely market impacts of shifting insurance policy. In an extreme scenario, some investors envisioned a future in which properties could not qualify for insurance at all and therefore became ineligible for loans.   The annual insurance pricing structure can underpredict risk for longer hold periods, as well as for the underpinning infrastructure. The approach also assumes the long-term availability of underwriting capabilities, in terms of the affordability and availability of products. If sites are unable to obtain insurance, they will not be eligible for loans, leading to major potential valuation consequences.

Long-term focus: In lay terms, catastrophe models simulate “thousands of versions of next year,” not “thousands of successive years.”

All agreed that valuation is currently lagging behind recognition of climate risk and anticipate this changing in the near future. Valuation does not incorporate climate risks because it is “backward-looking”. Models typically do not allow a user to modify future climate conditions, and there are no established best practices to apply insights from climate science to catastrophic hazard risk modeling. Valuation has become more urgent for investors considering longer time horizons. Some investors have also informally discussed properties having “expiration dates” after which they may no longer be safe or suitable for residential or business use without extensive investment in surrounding infrastructure.

Anticipating steep declines in building value because of climate impacts runs counter to how buildings are currently valued. In the current model, value is derived from the residual value of the land and structure, plus discounted cash flows over time that drive net present value and cap rates. However, if dramatic changes lead the value of the structure and land to approach zero, cap rates would change significantly, with a steep decrease in value after purchase, and would need to be offset with increased cash flow and profitability to maintain net present value.

Several discussed efforts to design risk mitigation strategies for vulnerable assets and price these costs into deals. Some also spoke about resilient design as presenting opportunities to differentiate assets and enhance value. For example, one interviewee said they were exploring opportunities to create a “resilience zone” for entire neighborhoods.

Parametric insurance, where insurance payouts are linked to when predefined event parameters such as extreme weather events are met or exceeded, is an emerging option. Industry leaders note that parametric insurance may become more widespread, but it is not an appropriate solution for all scenarios. The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) is one example of a regional fund.  #heitman 

 

AG&T is committed to being part of the climate solution. AG&T joined over a thousand leaders from local governments, businesses, universities, and other institutions across the country as part of the “America Is All In” joint statement.  To learn more click here. 

CDBG-DR and Critical Manufacturing

PUERTO RICO  DISASTER RECOVERY ACTION PLAN

The Action Plan

The first Action Plan outlined the uses for the approximately $1.5 billion in CDBG-DR made available by Congress on February 1, 2018. Subsequent amendments encompassed in this iteration of the Action Plan have further allocated an additional $8.2 billion anticipated in a second allocation for the Island, and now include the additional $277 million in unmet infrastructure need. While the recovery funds are clearly being allocated to repair billions of dollars in damages created by the recent hurricanes, repair without true economic recovery will ultimately continue a long standing dependence on federal payments.  While the plan addresses many of the needs of Puerto Rico, it fails to address how Puerto Rico can help make America safe again in light of the recent and devasting Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed an urgent need to secure medical and pharmaceutical supplies manufactured in the United States and avoid their shortage and dependence on foreign jurisdictions.  For decades, Puerto Rico provided the United States (and the world) with a reliable and cost efficient source of critical manufacturing. It is time to bring critical manufacturing back home.

US Manufacturing

Puerto Rico has been a historical hub for US manufacturing of pharmaceutical goods for more than 50 years. Total exports for Puerto Rico amounted to $20.5 billion in 2019. That was a 13.3‐percent increase from 2018 when exports totaled $18.1 billion. Puerto Rico is home to major US and European companies such as Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Baxter, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to name a few. Puerto Rico leads all states in the field of pharmaceutical manufacturing  and trade dollar value in 2019 was higher than both California and Indiana combined. Puerto Rico led U.S. exports of pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing in 2019, accounting for 24.6% of total U.S. exports.

In Puerto Rico, there are 49 pharmaceutical plants,  70 for medical devices. Seven out of the 10 top-selling medications are currently being manufactured in Puerto Rico.  Both sectors make up 33% of gross domestic product, which create 142,500 direct and indirect jobs, with an average salary of $42,000. Thousands of small and medium-sized companies supply goods and services to this industry.

COVID 19

A rapid ramp-up of hundreds of millions of units will likely be needed in the short term, which will require three key elements — readily available facilities, a quickly scalable skilled workforce, and rapid access to key materials.  Puerto Rico is uniquely positioned in all three elements. First, the ten year decline in manufacturing volume on the Island has left idle or seriously underutilized large-scale, state of- the-art facilities. There are several large-scale API (active product ingredient sites/chemical) sites mostly idle and available to accommodate high volume production. Similarly, on the finished product side, there are also a handful of largely underutilized drug product sites (available to produce capsules, tablets, etc.), as well as the excess capacity of many other manufacturing sites that typically operate with a 25-40% capacity cushion.

Puerto Rico can make quick gains in substituting a considerable amount of the production lines currently hosted internationally.  Although close to 30,000 people are currently employed by the industry, this number is less than 50% of the peak employment experienced just over a decade ago.

The Reduction of  Manufacturing

The United States – Puerto Rico’s dominance in critical manufacturing was significantly reduced by a confluence of globalization and other political-economic events in the 1990’s.  This also included one self-induced action, the elimination of US Federal Section 936 tax incentives.  The elimination of Section 936, was sadly intended to bring manufacturing back to the mainland,  but actually sent our critical industries to China, Mexico, Ireland.  The expiration of 936 prompted the number of manufacturing jobs to fall in Puerto Rico by almost half and is usually cited as one of the principal triggers of Puerto Rico’s long economy descent.

In  2017, Puerto Rico effectively filed the largest-ever federal bankruptcy proceeding by a local government with $74 billion in public debt.  To make matters worse, the passage of the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made has made it more expensive for U.S. corporations to operate in Puerto Rico.  The GILTI & BEAT provisions in particularly has led to a further deterioration of the island’s  pharmaceutical and medical industry, whose business model is heavily-dependent on intellectual property.

Current legislation

The US dependence on foreign manufacturing has recently caused direct action by Congress to secure the lines of medical and pharmaceutical supplies manufactured in the United States and avoid their shortage and dependence on foreign jurisdictions. Two such bipartisan resolutions are HR 6443 by Jennifer Gonzalez of Puerto Rico and HR 6448 by Stacey Plasket of the US Virgin Islands.

Economic Recovery Through Critical Manufacturing

As legislation is passed to make America safer, CDBG-DR can play a vital role in expediting this very important task. One of the goals of the CDBG-DR Economic Recovery program is to create an economic environment where residents will want to come back to the Island. By improving economic conditions and increasing the number of available jobs, Puerto Rico can minimize the displacement of Puerto Rican residents who have out-migrated and are at risk of permanent resettlement off the Island.

Conclusion

The time to secure America’s critical manufacturing is now. Puerto Rico has been a leader in this sector for the last 50+ years and is ideally suited to lead the way. While CDBR-DR is primarily aimed at making the island whole again, especially in housing and electrical infrastructure, the Covid19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to create both safety for Americans and a solid economy for the island of Puerto Rico.

Time to Bring Critical Manufacturing Back To Puerto Rico?

Critical Manufacturing Puerto Rico

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As we sit today in the middle of a world pandemic, a few things seem certain. The Corona Virus health crisis has forever changed our relationship with globalism and our new understanding how manufacturing keeps us all safe. This is especially true of the pharmaceutical industry. With shortages of basic supplies, medicines and protective gear, is it time to bring critical manufacturing back to the United States

The answer seems to be a resounding, “how fast.” But how do we do this, now that most of our manufacturing has been shipped to foreign locations? The answer might be right here at home. 

Puerto Rico has played a historic role in America’s manufacturing since the 1940’s.  In this conversation with Luis Fortuño, partner at Steptoe and Johnson (Governor of Puerto Rico 2009-2013), it is clear that since Operation Bootstrap, Puerto Rico has been a major contributor to The United State’s pharmaceutical manufacturing. 

The island has three key elements that make it very attractive for manufacturing.

  1. Puerto Rico has a vast network of exsisting mission ready manufacturing plants.
  2. The manufacturing work force on island has decades of proven track record.
  3. The universities (RUM in particular) develops top recruits for international firms in engineering, life science and technology

So what happened? 

“Well, it was really a confluence of many events, some global and others local”, according to Mr. Fortuño. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created incentives for companies to move to Mexico and Canada. Countries like Ireland and China created elaborate tax and other incentives to attract business. Section 936 of the Tax code expired – which was a critical component of incentivizing manufacturing on the island. To learn more, read Why Puerto Rico Now. 

Notwithstanding, Puerto Rico’s economic crisis, the island’s antiquated energy grid, and a wasteland of destruction caused by hurricanes in 2017, Puerto Rico is still in an ideal position to help USA quickly ramp up critical manufacturing production.  In fact, the island today currently out preforms States like California, Indiana, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  

Are there any Potential Roadblocks?

As part of the 2017 Tax Act, the new tax on Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) was proposed as a way to target profitable firms that are based abroad – known as controlled foreign corporations. For tax purposes, Puerto Rico is treated as a foreign jurisdiction and the 2017 Tax Act is bad news for companies doing business on the island. Patent-dependent sectors like pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and supplies account for nearly 35 percent of the total employment in manufacturing. Pharmaceutical companies alone employ approximately 90,000 Puerto Rico residents. 

Where do we go from here?

Today there are several initiatives to help bring manufacturing back to the United States, Puerto Rico and other economically depressed areas. One such initiative is HR 6443, authored by Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González-Colón and sponsored by Donna Shalala (D-FL), Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Peter King (R-NY).  

See article below. 

Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner leads bipartisan legislation that would secure the National Supply Chain

Together we will get through these very challenging times. This too shall pass.

Interested in telling your story about Puerto Rico or the Caribbean? Join us at AG&T Network. 

Mixed-use project delivers on wellness in Puerto Rico

AS PUBLISHED IN HOTEL BUSINESS  BY  ON

PONCE, PUERTO RICO—Ponce Paradise—a 900-acre resort, healthcare village and marina located here—is giving guests all the conveniences and amenities of mixed-use, but with a twist.

Adam Greenfader, managing partner, AG&T, the development firm behind Ponce Paradise, said, “There is a trend in hospitality development for travelers searching for a destination that offers a wellness package or amenities.”

Conceptualized by LandDesign and Winstanley Architects & Planners along with AG&T, the teams consulted engineering and aquatic architecture professionals to make the vision a reality, bringing together a mixed-use development and a wellness destination.

“Economies of scale seem to indicate mixed-use projects will be getting larger. The live-work-play concept is really taking hold as more people want to be in the center of it all,” Greenfader said.

Ponce Hospital and Wellness City

Still in its early design and community involvement phase, Ponce Paradise will comprise a hotel and spa, wellness community, farm-to-table agricultural setup, a micro-grid, residential neighborhoods, a town square and a university medical center, with a total investment of approximately $1 billion.

Specifically, the 166-acre Wellness City will have research, university and care facilities, which will include a branded hospital, rehabilitation centers, outpatient, recovery rooms, assisted living facilities, nursing home, short-term residential units and condominiums. The wellness lagoon will have restaurants and retail, and a plaza will be home to a worship center, park and entertainment venue. 

The development will not only promote health and wellness but sustainability as well. About 60% of the site is untouched and will remain in its natural state, according to the Puerto Rico Conservation Easement Law. Additionally, the developed area has acres of green space, waterways and parks.

“Wellness tourism has been estimated as a $563 billion industry in 2018,” Greenfader said. “Puerto Rico is ideally situated to capture a large part of this market due to its central location, airlift and cruise traffic, U.S. medical doctors and great infrastructure.

“There are many medical treatments that can be done in Puerto Rico for a fraction of the cost—and you get to enjoy an amazing Caribbean vacation experience,” he added.

There are, of course, some challenges. “Less than 7% of Puerto Rico’s GDP is tourism based. For a Caribbean island with great beaches, people and infrastructure, this in incredibly low. The city of Ponce, in particular, has a convention center, port and airport that are highly underutilized,” Greenfader said, highlighting the project’s necessity.

He said the first challenge is to get the Municipality of Ponce and the Fiscal Board controlled by the U.S. Congress to fully use its assets. The second challenge—which is common in any large mixed-use project—is to provide the right combination of uses.

“The last challenge is financing,” he said. “In Puerto Rico, there are $20 billion of Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief. We trust some of that will be allocated to critical projects such as Ponce Paradise.”

Following meetings with the municipality, major medical associations, cruise lines and community leaders—each with their own concerns—Greenfader is confident that they will be able to address each group while also honoring Ponce’s natural surroundings.

Master Plan for Wellness City and Hospital

 

“Our job as project sponsors is to balance the concerns of each group with the stewardship of the environment,” he said. “The project must make economic sense but also be a valuable contributor to the local region, protecting and enhancing natural assets.”

Greenfader said that as hospitality as a whole faces its own challenges, differentiators like mixed-use developments are gaining more momentum.

“Airbnb and other disruptors have proven that the market is changing and that guests are seeking new experiences. Budget allocations, the desire to be together in large groups and ease of booking a reservation are just a few reasons the hotel industry is adding more residential units,” he said.

According to Greenfader, residential space generates revenue that can assist with the financing capital stack, while also creating a rental pool of additional units for the high seasons.

Ponce Paradise plans to offer three residential options: single-family homes, smaller vacation rentals and affordable “shotgun-style” housing, all with their own facilities and security.

Its attention to health, however, is the real differentiator, with nature serving as both the basis for its design and Ponce Paradise’s mantra.

“Everyone realizes that wellness is holistic; we don’t just treat the physical but the whole mind, body and spirit,” Greenfader said. “Doctors know that a patient’s success rate is often a result of a positive mental attitude. A cold, sterile room doesn’t necessarily lend itself to great health. Great architecture, beautiful landscaping, water vistas, amazing smells, community, etc., can make the difference between success and failure in a person’s treatment.”

Wellness extends far beyond simple offerings here. “Doing yoga with goats may not prove to have ‘legs,’ but resort wellness has just begun to take off. The reasons are simple: Industrialized nations are getting older, people are living longer, and with two billion new tourists coming from India and China, there are many more potential people for this market niche,” he said. “Some experts say the wellness resort industry is expected to double within the next 20 years and become a $1-trillion industry.”

The sustainability factor is also attracting hoteliers, especially in an area that’s been struck by natural disasters.

“Developers are starting to realize that a weather-related crisis can have a devastating effect on operational risk,” he said. “If a hotel cannot withstand hurricane-force winds, floods and mold, then it will suffer huge downtimes and repairs. In fact, hotels may not ever come back online at all.”

Greenfader said that hotel buyers are now evaluating their portfolios for climate risk and realizing that initially spending 15-20% more in construction costs to make a project resilient and sustainable makes good business sense.

“Developers also realize that if they can stay open during a crisis, their occupancy will be 100% or more,” Greenfader said. “During a relief and rebuilding period, hotels host thousands of relief workers, insurance adjusters and other critical workers. It’s a win-win to be resilient and sustainable.”

This couldn’t be more clear than at the current time, when Puerto Rico is beginning to recover from a series of earthquakes, which Greenfader noted had hit the south particularly hard—especially structures built before 1990, when codes were updated to bolster construction for seismic activity.

“The earthquake reaffirms that a project like Ponce Paradise needs to build a resilient infrastructure into its master plan and be forward-looking in its design,” he said. HB

ULI Roundtable on Climate Resilience in The Netherlands

ULI Roundtable on Climate Resilience in The Netherlands

ULI Netherlands and ULI South East Florida-Caribbean Come Together to discuss Climate Resilience

 

The ULI Roundtable on Climate Resilience in The Netherlands was held to discuss how hurricane destruction in the Caribbean (and specifically Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten in 2017 and the Bahamas in 2019), reveals an urgency to rethink urban resilience and regeneration in the Caribbean. The ULI Roundtable brought together Dutch planners, designers, architects, engineers, financial institutions, developers, and investors to discuss new solutions and share global best practice. Specific issues focused on the Dutch knowledge and leadership on climate mitigation across urban design, development and investment. The two speakers included: 

Mr. Adam Greenfader, Chair of the ULI SE Florida/Caribbean Council – shared experiences and outcome advice from the ULI Advisory Services Panelists in the Municipality of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico after the catastrophic and deadly 2017 Hurricane Maria.

Mr. Henk Ovink, Dutch special envoy to the United Nations on Water, and flood expert shared insights into global climate change challenges and the Dutch resilience plans for both the Netherlands and Dutch Caribbean.

Some of the works discussed:

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.

Thought Leadership in Action

Hannah Greenfader Headshot Cartoon

Thought leadership in action. Congratulations to Hannah Greenfader,  one of our past thought leaders on helping achieve the Hazon Seal of Sustainability!  Your efforts are greatly appreciated and so needed in this time of great climatic change.

Hannah Greenfader is interned with the Miami- Dade County Office of Resilience researching sea-level rise strategies and creating content for educational programs about sustainability and resilience in Miami. 

Today, Hannah is program associate at World Wildlife Fund which was was founded in 1961 and is the largest privately supported international conservation organization in the world. As program associate, I am responsible for supporting “America Is All In” which is the most expansive coalition of leaders ever assembled in support of climate action in the U.S.

For more information about the AG&T thought leadership program contact us here.

 

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands. Our thought leadership program includes mentoring students from the University of Miami Master of Real Estate Development program in finance, sales, and Caribbean development.