The government of Puerto Rico saw an opportunity and wanted to seize it. Along the waterfront canal immediately adjacent to Old San Juan sat 100-acres of not only underutilized land but mostly idle, decaying infrastructure that served to detract from the San Juan experience of not only tourists but local residents. Simply put, Puerto Rico wanted to become a better place.
SAG was engaged to help first understand and then define, and ultimately realize, the potential. First, to outline the development options that were determined to be feasible based on an in-depth, six-month market and financial study of the local market and competitive landscape. Given the dilapidated condition of the existing infrastructure, and the cost associated with simply securing the piers for pedestrian use as well as land remediation issues, the parcel actually had negative land value. The government’s aspirations of selling its land to the private sector in hopes of their developing into what was shown to be market-supported were dashed. Therefore, a strategy was created that used existing public resources as leverage to gather the “low-hanging fruit” and to begin the transformation process that would grow organically and improve the ability to attract future private sector interest and investment capital.
SAG’s was the development manager to the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, working in conjunction with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, and the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority regarding the public and private development of the San Juan Waterfront area now known as “Bahia Urbana.” The project is slated for $1.5 billion of future investment, which will include retail, restaurants, hotels, tourism attractions, public market and spaces, multifamily residential, office, and other civic uses.
Moreover, SAG was charged with securing the first private partners in Bahia Urbana; and SAG’s solicitation and recruitment efforts bore fruit. Executed contracts with tourism partners and vendors for the site included a New York-based seaplane operator, a Caribbean-based water taxi operation, as well as the tall ship HMS Bounty for the 2010 and 2011 peak-tourism seasons (prior to its tragic sinking in late 2012). The project’s official grand opening was in late 2012 and includes Café Ocho, an urban beach, an outdoor performance venue, a market, a trapeze school, and other cultural and entertainment amenities.
Project Components: Multifamily, Office, Retail, Hotels and Civic Uses
Project Value: $1.5 billion