Nearly one year into his five year term, President Varela last week gave the orders to the first group of contractors for work on the massive $500 million dollar Colón renovation initiative.
Colón, the sea port and free trade zone area in Panama’s Caribbean coast is home to some amazing colonial buildings and Caribbean waterfront estates. At one point, Colón was considered the jewel of all of Central America, but today it is a crime ridden city on the mend that many Panamanians have written off as beyond repair.
We believe that while it may be a 10+ year real estate play, there are some very tangible potential real estate investment angles.
Most mid-level managers and professionals working in Colón end up living in Panama City and commuting simply because there have never been any developers willing to come in and build the $70,000 – $120,000 housing that has been wildly successful in the Panama metro area.
Land can still be bought in the cheap in areas just outside of Colón proper or even in downtown Colón for that matter.
Casco Antiguo style renovation is another angle, and the proof of concept is in the 8 year track record of a strong resurgence of Panama City’s old quarter. The same challenges exist in Colón as they do in Casco Viejo: squatters, zoning and design restrictions, as well as construction and labor issues.
However, just look at a before and after of Panama City’s historic district which less than a decade ago was considered no-man’s land.
Things really start to get interesting once you branch out of Colón and onto the coastal areas to the east and west, known as Costa Arriba and Costa Abajo, respectively. Costa Arriba is home to famous Isla Grande, which has also fallen on hard times due to neglect and a general lack of interest and promotion by tourism authorities.
New developments on Costa Arriba, however, may be just the impetus that the region needs.
Take for example the new marina development at Linton Bay. The developers have been quietly building over the last few years and with very little fanfare have just opened up what has the makings to be an exceptional and modern marina.
Phase one is already fully operational, with slip rentals currently available along with a 160 ton travel lift and dry dock services. The Linton Bay Marina will ultimately have 180 slips and currently enjoys both land and sea access, less than 90 minutes drive from Panama City.
Look for a residential component of the Marina project coming soon….
This Marina is going to be a game changer for the coast. The developers are well funded and true visionaries for the area, with a concept that is going to single-handedly open up Panama’s eastern Caribbean to a new market that has been excluded from Panama in the past.
And finally, once the Colón Puerto Libre initative is officially rolled out, it’s off to the races. This economic stimulus package was designed to encourage further development in Colón’s old town and promote economic activity by waiving the ITBMS on purchases by tourists and offer other financial incentives with property ownership and transfer taxes.
This is one of many very interesting developments going on in Panama’s Caribbean coast, all on the heels of the massive Colón redevelopment project.