Quick Hits #2: Natura Aruba, Coral Pyramid, Coach New York, Super Food, Mambo Jambo, Blue Residence Club, Aruba Millennium

After last week’s Quick Hits post containing updates on a wide variety of projects currently ongoing in Aruba, I decided to write a sequel. I’ve received an avalanche of emails from people asking me to write more about other projects as well. Gladly. Here is Quick Hits #2.

Something new I’m doing with these post now is linking to various sites relating to the subject matter, hopefully making the content more useful. Note that all links will open a new tab or window.

Natura Residences Aruba
Natura Residences Aruba [Image by Natural Residences website]

Natura Aruba

A few years ago many new condo projects start popping out of the ground like wild mushrooms, however, most of them never materialized due the economic crisis. Fact is that financing dried up and most projects paralyzed or stopped altogether.

Until now that is. The money-flow for new condo developments seem to have restarted and a new project has presented itself: Natura Residences at Eagle Beach Aruba. Construction has started and is located between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach, north of Blue Residence Club (defunct The Cliff Residences) and south of Divi Phoenix Aruba timeshare towers.

The developer of Natura Residencias (note the spelling in the logo is in Spanish “Residencias”) is Natura Development, a company registered at the Chamber of Commerce on January 30, 2007 and a local national and a Venezuelan, according to official records. The sales office is located in The Village mall (in Palm Beach across Radisson Resort). The Village is (co-)owned by the same local national mentioned above.

The increase of development and construction in Aruba comes inherently with criticism, from both locals and tourist. While I’m not going to get into that topic right now (this post is called Quick Hits) I want to emphasize that this development is different from what’s we’ve seen recently on this island. In fact it reminds me more of the Boardwalk on steroids. Natura’s going to to feature 20 units (or town houses as they are called nowadays) which is going to have a different architectural style and overall theme in comparison to other projects. It certainly won’t high rise development and the theme is more earthy and Caribbean.

I visited the construction site the other day and observed construction of what seems to be two model-units. The rest of the terrain is empty.

Coach New York

Renaissance Mall Aruba continues its focus to attract more high end tenants for its luxury brands mall. After seeing Salvatore Ferragamo left Renaissance Mall in favor of Palm Beach Plaza mall, a prime spot came open. Now luxury apparel brand Coach New York is opening its door before the end of the year.

Super Food

Super Food is currently located on the main road going to the hotel area, just before reaching the low rise hotel area, across the street of defunct Bushiri Resort. Super Food has big expansion plans and is building a brand new facility east of Tropicana Aruba and west of Sasaki Apartments. Formerly Adventure Golf miniature golf and Black Hog Saloon were located there. After a long construction delay (which is normal in Aruba) Super Food recently started the construction.

This supermarket seems to target now not only the local shopper, but more directly the tourists as well. Apart from groceries, bread and meat, they are offering rental spaces for other merchants to open shop there as well. Think of a farmacy and florist.

Mambo Jambo

Iconic bar and restaurant Mambo Jambo has been sold. Owner Aruba Wine and Dine lost confidence in the project after losing business due to the move of clientele from down town to Palm Beach area. The new owner, who has experience in this field, said he’s planning to turn things around. The name “Mambo Jambo” is likely to disappear.

Blue Residence Club

The original project was called The Cliff but the project ultimately was abandoned. The Cliff was under development by Venezuelan Pering Group, which was simultaneously developing Oceania Condominium. Oceania Condo was delivered but The Cliff didn’t make it.

A few years has gone by and Pering decided to give another go. They changed the name to Blue Residence Club but the logo and plans shows similarities with defunct The Cliff condo. This is going to be a relatively tall building consisting of 127 units. The plans on the website suggests four models, the smallest being 1024 square feet (95 square meter) and the biggest 617 square feet (297 square meter). Very spacious. Unit prices start at $418,000.

Aruba Millennium

Low budget resort Aruba Millennium, located off Palm Beach, has been up for sale for some time. Last year the property exchanged owners and is now owned by Venezuelan investors. Soon after the property was officially acquired, renovation work started, only to stop just as quickly. It’s been sitting without any activity for months.

Closing

Lastly a final word of advice from me: if you’re in the market for condo property, beware of notorious construction delays and moving deadlines.

Most legal documents are in Dutch (Aruba’s official language). You cannot demand English or Spanish documents as Dutch is our official language. Just pay a guy to have look at it. It’s puzzling for me to see how many people refuse to hire a guy for $1K or so to go through the documents while on the other side are more than willing to commit $300K option to purchase, sometimes without having a clue what the contract says. Buyer beware.


Quick Hits: Alhambra Casino, Tropicana Resort, Linear Park, Oasis Condo, Acqua Condo, Costa Linda, Taste of Belgium, Ritz Carlton, La Cabana

In terms of tourism development at lot went on during my 6 month absence, as you can image. This post is especially interesting for the repeat visitors to Aruba or just for the one who are curious by nature. I’m touching each project briefly just to get you up to speed. At a later time I will elaborate on the individual projects, including several pictures. Let’s get to it.

Alhambra Casino

The construction at Alhambra Casino has been ongoing for the better part of the year. Currently work is being done at the main entrance which is on the east end. On top of the main entrance a dome is being build to give the casino entrance a grand appearance.

Ritz Carlton Aruba Construction
Construction at Ritz Carlton Aruba

On the eastern part a new section is being constructed, which seems to going to function as a storage room or staff area. The parking area is completely finished, including new asphalt pavement, desert landscaping and LED parking lights.

The shopping area that use to be there was razed to make place for a new, better organized shopping area. The retail section still needs months of construction. Only food retail business to remain open during construction is Subway restaurant.

Tropicana Resort

Renovation at Tropicana Resort is ongoing, at a slow pace it seems. The old temporary banners with the resort titles made place for more permanent titles. Tropicana chose for a retro design using white letters on top circles with green background and gold trim for the second part of the resort name. The casino’s name is now Trop Casino. As of today the casino hasn’t resume business. The restaurant there is open for business. By the way I saw a couple of juicy deals on their website for the coming months. Have at it.

Linear Park

The island government has pushed for the construction of a linear park across the street from Talk of the Town Resort (this resort is located on the way to Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, just after the airport). The linear park is an open and accessible park for locals and visitors alike.

The first contours of the park are becoming visible and I must say that I’m actually pleasantly surprised at the first shapes of this park. I could see myself hanging out there with the family. The complete plan entails the largest linear park of the Caribbean connecting the park from Talk of the Town to the hotel area by the beaches.

Oasis Condo

Oasis is practically finished, with only a few more minor details that need some work. The way things are going I believe guests could be arriving weeks before year’s end. It really looks nice. I’ll have to tour the place to see the quality in the detail and finish.

Acqua Condo

Construction at Acqua Condo continues to be ongoing, but not without the well documented issues. This time the issue isn’t the construction itself, rather the fact that some buyers are complaining about getting a different unit than initially was agreed upon. Sigh… By the way, I read that on a forum.

Costa Linda

This is the first major renovation of the 90s build resort, Costa Linda. Construction is full ahead and ongoing. Nothing else to report here.

Taste of Belgium

Taste of Belgium Restaurant (same owners as Cilo City Lounge, Papillon Restaurant, Taste of Belgium Bistro and a catering business) is under construction at Palm Beach Plaza Mall. This ambitious group is expanding rapidly and are now competing with another fast expanding group of restaurants Aruba Wind and Dine.

I have always been a fan of Taste of Belgium and related restaurants. You should check them out. They have a great Facebook page with up to date pictures of the construction at Taste of Belgium Restaurant.

Ritz Carlton

North of Marriott Resort, construction of Ritz Carlton continues without novelties. This luxury resort is expected to be delivered somewhere in 2013.

La Cabana

Construction at La Cabana continues. Big parts of the resort has been delivered, including the front facade and lobby. I think the renovation should help La Cabana fix issues it had recently due to the previous lack of maintenance.

These are just a couple of developments I covered, many more to come in the coming time. I’ve added some links for your convenience. Have a great week.

Acqua Condominium Latest

Construction at trouble-filled development Acqua Condominium continues. It was only last month that they had to deal with another issue regarding pay of some workers with a sub-contractor. The issue seems resolved as the construction appears to be ongoing.

There’s a wall around the whole construction effort preventing me of an inside look, so I decided to take a peek from neighboring Palm Beach Plaza mall. From this angle I got a decent view of recent work.

Acqua Aruba
Facade of ongoing construction work at Acqua (stucco work on the southern tower visible in picture finished)

What I saw didn’t really impress much. I mean, people are working and the development of the construction ongoing but nothing more. Currently they are pouring concrete of adjacent towers, which is not visible in the combination of pictures. Work in progress.

Acqua Aruba
Construction at Acqua

De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis Adventures

In a news conference local giant tour operator De Palm Tours announced the acquisition of Atlantis Adventures. Atlantis offers submarine and semi-submarine excursions. Additionally they offers shore services to cruise lines. Officials from both companies announced that that the transaction was finalized on February 1, 2011 (almost two weeks ago), without offering details about the sum involved. This transaction was rumored for some time and comes as no surprise. Atlantis was purchased back in the 90s for $4 million by the – now – former owners.

De Palm Tours claims it won’t effect the operation of neither company as both companies will continue to operate separately. On the short term perhaps but not on the long term. I believe this acquisition makes a lot of sense. Now De Palm Tours has a better filled portfolio of products and services. Whether or not this deal will be beneficial to the customers has yet to be seen.


De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis

I see some issues down the road, however. De Palm Tours has now become more powerful in the shore excursion scene, beware cruise ships. I foresee a cut in positions in the future. For example, some of these excursions are executed with two staff (De Palm Tour bus driver and Atlantis tour guide) which now could be done by just the driver alone. Lastly, just a few months ago Atlantis partnered with another company – in direct competition to De Palm Tours – to launch a bus tour operation that now has an uncertain future. Acquisitions are very uncommon in Aruba, only deep pocketed companies (or have good connections to local banks) are able to do this and there aren’t too many of them.

Acqua Condo Restarted Construction

As promised in their recent newsletter the developer of Acqua condo resumed construction efforts on their massive condo development in Palm Beach, south of Marriott properties. This plagued project has been hit with setbacks from the beginning and struggled since.

It goes without saying that the struggles translate into massive delays in delivery, making buyers nervous, extremely nervous. From the amount of emails I receive from concerned buyers I can only conclude that information towards the clients is very poor or non-existent.

Acqua Condo
Acqua condo restarted construction in November

If you are an interested party to this development you should be happy to learn about the resumed construction. The developer said that this time they should move ahead swiftly and doesn’t expect any new setbacks. As always, I’ll keep my eye on this development.

Acqua Condo News Read Between Lines

I’ve received numerous emails voicing their concerns about the consistent lack of progress in the construction at Acqua Condominium at Palm Beach. Acqua has struggled to comply with the self imposed schedule thus far.

Recently Acqua sent out newsletter with updates about the development. Of the four paragraphs one was dedicated to explaining the current status. The status update was confusing, I had to read between the lines. The newsletter states that the sun is shining again on the construction work because the building material is on the premises. The first week of November they expect to go full ahead with the construction. I’ve already marked it in my agenda, I’m going to be on top of it. I’m really rooting for Acqua, we don’t need anymore unfinished developments in the area.

Acqua Condo
Acqua Condo, with a mall on the left

There was another thing line that caught my attention in the newsletter: “Everybody is ready to continue since the release of the money exchange in Venezuela”. I’m sure most clients, if not everybody, from North America don’t understand this. For the ones who don’t now, Venezuela has put limitations for the exchange of foreign currency to its citizens and businesses. No Venezuelan company is allowed to sent money or invest outside the country through legal channels.

My question is though, what does this have to do with anything? Is the construction money coming from Venezuela? Or the materials? The construction workers? Relying on Venezuela for building materials, funds or otherwise seems to be a poor business decision, no matter how good it seemed during the planning. The partners of this development are Venezuelans indeed but that shouldn’t be problem. Did you know that behind most recent successful condo constructions at Eagle Beach Venezuelan developers are behind them as well? FYI.

Acqua Condo
Close up or recent status of Acqua Condo

Pics: Oasis Condo Progress Update

Construction of Oasis Condo near Eagle Beach has been ongoing for some time now. This project has had its share of delays but right now things seem to moving forward quickly.

A tour around the construction site reveals that most major cement work (stucco) is finished. The exterior painting has progressed nicely but still need work. Detail work has begun on the interior. Windows and doors are currently being installed and the pool is almost finished.

Oasis Update
Oasis Condo central area

The day I visited the job site I saw a lot of workers busy, which means that this project is making serious steps forwards. I’m not seeing this project finished for at least another 6 to 9 months, save any unforeseen delays.

Oasis Update
Rooms need a lot of work

Oasis Update
Main swimming pool

Oasis Update
Future lobby/entrance of development

Oasis Update
Main pool

Oasis Update
White trim

Oasis Update
Sales office with MVC Eagle Beach on the right

Oasis Update
Oasis with neighboring Oceania on the right

Oasis Update
Entrance/Lobby

Oasis Update
AC infrastructure

Oasis Update
Detail of tiles and windows