The Miami Herald
October 4, 1998
Luxury apartments rise in Havana, attract foreign investors

             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 type of
             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 would pay
             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 and
             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.

             Amenities offered

             Among the features: central air conditioning, satellite television, 24-hour security,
             private parking and a rooftop swimming pool.

             Prices range from $102,800 for a 581-square-foot studio on the ground floor to
             $447,000 for a 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom, fourth-floor apartment with a
             spacious balcony.

             Inmobiliaria Real, whose president is Monaco investor Jean-Pierre Pastor, was
             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 for private
             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
             visiting dignitaries.

             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.

             British-Cuban venture

             Another alliance for commercial development or residential property was forged
             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 a
             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 ``will be
             built on land that has been researched by legal experts.''

             The precaution appears designed to avoid claims by U.S. citizens or Cuban exiles
             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 view of
             Havana, described as ``an authentic paradise for sweet living.''


                               Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald