San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Green’ Development Doing Things Differently

While the real estate market is slowing down in much of the country, work is progressing at Finca Las Brisas, a 150-acre, 24-lot, planned community in the mountains overlooking Sámara on the northern Pacific coast.

The finca recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its community center but without a golden shovel or all the usual ceremonial trappings. Instead, to symbolize the project’s aim of integrating with the local community, the builders made level a nearby soccer field, using the excess soil to repair erosion problems on the development.

“We’re doing things differently,” says majority partner Al Benner. “We’re not like a gated community. We’re trying to integrate with the local culture. We want to make a minimal impact on the land.”

With that in mind, the development has made sustainability and “acting local” a top priority, using local construction materials such as palm thatch from nearby farms and employing local workers who walk or ride to work on horseback. While none of the villas has been built yet, the group has planted 800 fruit trees and a vegetable garden and is working on hiking trails and fishponds. Horses, goats and chickens are coming soon, and plans are in the works for a farmer’s market to serve the nearby town, Maquenco.

“We are basically revitalizing the land,” Benner says, adding that only 30 of the 150 acres will be developed, the rest permanently preserved. “It’s a new way of looking at things.”

Assuaging concerns about the economic slowdown, Benner and his partners are selffinancing the project, and the entire 150 acres is already paid for. Benner says about 12 of the 24 lots have been purchased or have had a deposit paid, and construction is expected to be complete in 2010.

“Even if things slow up for us a little bit, we’re still moving forward,” Benner says. “The construction is moving ahead full steam, regardless of the economy.”

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–Patrick Fitzgerald


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