By GERARDO REYES
El Nuevo Herald
HAVANA -- Giant cranes dot the residential neighborhood of Miramar, a symbol
of the boom in construction of luxury apartments for investors willing to bet their
dollars on the future of private property under Cuba's communist regime.
The apartments are advertised as ``distinguished living spaces with every
comfort and refinement,'' although for many Cubans forced to live in crowded,
often dilapidated homes, they are often annoying symbols of unattainable
So far, the sales campaign by Real Inmobiliaria, a developer based in Monaco,
appears to be succeeding.
At an average of $149 a square foot -- comparable to prices of some apartments
in Miami's Brickell area -- the agency has sold, in less than a year, the 31
apartments and studio units in its first project, the Monte Carlo-Palace, a
four-story building whose black facade dominates peaceful Fifth Avenue, between
44th and 46th streets.
The majority of buyers are Spanish and Italian concerns that otherwise
up to $2,000 a month to house their executives at the best Havana hotels.
A few blocks from the Monte Carlo-Palace, on 42nd Street between Third
Fifth avenues, the foundations are being laid for the three-story Havana-Palace,
another Real Inmobiliaria project. Several of the 71 apartments and studios have
already been spoken for by foreign investors.
Among the features: central air conditioning, satellite television, 24-hour
private parking and a rooftop swimming pool.
Prices range from $102,800 for a 581-square-foot studio on the ground floor
$447,000 for a 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom, fourth-floor apartment with a
Inmobiliaria Real, whose president is Monaco investor Jean-Pierre Pastor,
among the first companies to obtain a license to build and sell apartments after
Cuba passed legislation allowing foreign investments in 1995.
The legislation allows real estate investments if the property is used
homes, for tourists or for employees of foreign companies.
A 15-minute drive from central Havana, Miramar appears to be the neighborhood
favored by foreign investors and the Cuban government for new apartment and
office projects. The neighborhood was once the home of wealthy Cubans, but
now many of its mansions are occupied by foreign diplomats and high government
officials, or have been refurbished to serve as embassies or guest houses for
Costa Habana, a Cuban-Spanish consortium, is building a 175-unit apartment
complex named Jardines de Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue Gardens) on Fifth
Avenue, Miramar's elegant thoroughfare lined with parks and palm trees.
Another alliance for commercial development or residential property was
this year between the British group Beta Gran Caribe and Inmobiliaria Cimex, the
real estate arm of the Cuban government.
Last month a Spanish firm, Nuevo Futuro Construcciones y Contratos, formed
mixed-capital venture with the Cuban government firm Inmobiliaria Lares to build
residential complexes for foreign investors.
The joint venture, known as Parque Oeste, advertised that the apartments
built on land that has been researched by legal experts.''
The precaution appears designed to avoid claims by U.S. citizens or Cuban
like those that have been made against other properties in Havana by former
owners whose property was expropriated after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Not surprisingly, the possibility of future strife is absent from the builders' publicity.
A brochure for the Havana-Palace penthouse says it will have a panoramic
Havana, described as ``an authentic paradise for sweet living.''
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald