As we step onto the subway and find our way to the seats, our conversation moves to the day’s viewings. The morning commute is over and our section is filled with two separate groups of tourists en route to Albrook, now the largest shopping mall in Central America and pushing for the crown for all of Latin America.
From the looks of it at least one of the groups is here on business: Eight Asian guys in suits. Another good sign for what continues to be a record setting economy as the new trade leader in the region.
“Balboa Avenue has really come along as the city grew around it and became a much more livable and less congested area,” I begin. Two years ago, they finished the Bay cleanup project along the time they sealed Old Town’s fate with the Cinta Costera extension.”
While I cant claim to have been an advocate for the Cinta Costera 3 (it is one hell of an eyesore), the reclaimed green space and the fact that I can ride my bike from Paitilla to the Causeway were unexpected benefits.
Four minutes later, were at the Hospital Nacional stop and heading up the escalator en route to the Allure building, our first property.
I remember riding up the construction elevator as this tower was getting built, six years ago. At the time, I scanned the Balboa skyline and counted at least eleven cranes in the air. Eleven! Now the only construction sites along Balboa Avenue are the massive Panorama Bay project at the far west end along with the new National Library and Technology Center on the site of the Former US embassy.
Street side parking meters line the entrance to Parque Urraca, right next to the entrance to the underground parking lot that was completed back in 2013. The basketball courts and baseball diamonds are empty as city workers prune bushes and tend to the roped off flower beds. Aromas from the nearby Colombian and Brazilian food trucks fill the air, and I’m thinking that its way too early to be hungry.
The glass and steel facade of Allure has held up well over the last four years, and as a testament to the developers the building still shows very, very well. It never surprises me how quickly buildings tend to deteriorate in the harsh Panama climate, but I’m still not sure if it’s the salty air, cheap paint, or a combination of both. Not a problem today with Allure though!
The 28th floor, 153 meter two bedroom condo is priced competitively at $468,000 and Im pleased to hear positive feedback from the buyer. The views over the park towards the sea are today, crystal clear and the impression is a good one. We breeze through the pool area, check out the gym and head out. I get the feeling I may be seeing an offer later today, the fourth this week from this particular investor. It doesn’t hurt to have a waiting list of six multinationals who have all expressed interest in the building and I know that this is one of the few two bedrooms that is unoccupied.
We walk along Balboa Avenue to our next showing at the Yoo Tower as Metrobusses hum silently by. The nasty smells that plagued the Multi Centro Mall and surrounding Paitilla neighborhood are a distant memory, replaced with clean, treated water coming in under the pedestrian bridge and adjacent park.
The lobby at Yoo Tower never fails to impress and the building feels like it is in full bloom. Philipe Stark’s dream is perfectly executed, as pink hydrangeas contrast against white orchids and the scent of lilies fill the air.
I love showing this building. The property we are going to see is a smaller 123 meter two bedroom going for $480k. I tell Frank that I think the condo is a bit overpriced since its on a lower floor, but also have to acknowledge that last week on MLS I saw a higher floor sold at 465k so weve got some good info to negotiate in case he likes the property. Yoo’s fantastic, but the $4.80/meter administration charge is a tough pill to swallow since the city average is still running around $3.25/meter. Granted, you get what you pay for, and it’s obvious that the staff (all Colombian with an American as HOA president) has done a fantastic job keeping it up.
The social areas in Yoo tower are killer, especially the landscaping on the swimming pool and lap pool floors, but in the end he isnt crazy about the apartment. “Too close to the other buildings and the kitchen is too small!”
On we march.