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Puerto Rico

Opportunity knocks for Roosevelt Roads

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Extensive tracts of land at the former United States Navy base at Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico have been earmarked for major development projects over the new few years.

By the end of this year the master developers will have been chosen to take the various projects through to completion.

Roosevelt Roads – affectionately known as Roosey Roads (pronounced ‘Rosy’) – is a huge area of land adjacent to the town of Ceiba in the east of Puerto Rico. Established during the Second World War, it was an important naval station until 2004 when military personnel were withdrawn. This left more than 8,500 acres of vacant land, of which an area of some 3,000 acres has been identified for public development.

Reconfigured

Some local pressure to develop the site as a container transshipment port – which dates back several decades – has been widely discounted as totally impractical. Instead, it is expected that the existing port facility will be reconfigured to serve the tourism industry, including a cruise ship terminal and ferry berths to connect Puerto Rico with the neighboring islands.

More than US$2 billion of investment is being sought by the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) for Roosevelt Roads to redevelop the area over a period of 25 years. This scheme is expected to create in excess of 20,000 jobs and to be a major economic earner for the local population.

The process is already well under way. In the first phase, the LRA has selected four master developers. The second phase, to be completed by December this year, will involve requesting and evaluating their proposals through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

A total of eight entities filed statements of qualification by the deadline, of which four were selected to move onto the final round of the process, from which one Master Developer will be chosen.

The four are from the United States, Latin America and Puerto Rico:

  • Clark Realty – US-based group experienced in redeveloping US military bases
  • Roosevelt Roads Redevelopment – corporation of executives and investors from Puerto Rico, Brazil, the USA and United Kingdom
  • Ariel Investment Management – Uruguay-based real estate investment and development group

OHorizons – Puerto Rico-based corporation backed by Chinese capital.

Malu Blázquez Arsuaga, Executive Director of the LRA for Roosevelt Roads, commented: “The four entities chosen by the Selection Committee have the experience, the financial resources and the conceptual vision of the redevelopment project that are consistent with the Master Plan and Land Use Plan of the LRA.”

“The LRA’s selection of the four entities that are moving on to the final round of the RFP process for Master Developers demonstrates that the redevelopment project is being driven at firm pace with activities that will benefit the economic and social fabric of the eastern region and Puerto Rico.”

There are nine development zones in the new Land Use Plan, which aims to increase the buffer zones between land being developed and conservation areas. It is also proposed that 20 per cent of the residential development should be affordable housing for families and young people.

The whole project will depend on the master developers, who will bring together the smaller contractors and developers as well as businesses and communities.

Hernán F. Ayala-Rubio, President of the Puerto Rica Shipping Association commented: “I strongly believe that Roosevelt Roads has a unique combination, with both the airport and port within 5 minutes from each other. There are only a few places in the world that have that advantage. There is plenty of existing infrastructure that can be re-used or redesigned, beaches, waterfront areas, hospitals, residential areas, schools, training centers, a 1,050’ long drydock, hotels, and even walkups, that were never used.”

“I hope that the new government plans can be marketed correctly to attract the right party which can bring this area back to life. The residents of the Municipality of Ceiba, and the adjacent municipalities, badly need this project in order to create new jobs and economic growth. In the end it will benefit the whole island.”

Infrastructure

The departure of the US Navy has left vast areas of prime real estate, ripe for development. The site benefits from an existing harbor facility and an airport with an 11,000 ft (3,352.8 meter) runway.

It is also close to some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, such as Luquillo Beach, as well as the neighboring islands of Vieques and Culebra.

Since the departure of the military, the former base has become a ghost town. Many workers moved away and it has the highest levels of unemployment in the country. However, many potential developers have studied the master plan and have already begun drawing up their own plans based on that.

Mixed use

About 3,000 acres has been made available for mixed use projects, with opportunities for tourism, commercial, light industrial, educational and residential developments. The master plan includes a cruise terminal, hotels, a casino and areas for ecotourism as well as residential and retail developments.
Puerto Rico is considered an attractive investment opportunity for global investors with a significant pool of skilled workers as well as economic incentives for international businesses.

Alberto Bacó Bagué, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce said: “The development of Roosevelt Roads is no longer a plan but rather a project that is being implemented as a hub of economic growth for the eastern region of Puerto Rico. It is one of our principal projects as part of our plan to drive the new economic transformation of Puerto Rico. The agility with which it is being steered will allow us to see further positive results in a matter of months.”

More information on the developments can be found at: www.rooseveltroads.pr.gov

 

Roosevelt Roads

Roosevelt Roads was a United States naval air base in Puerto Rico. US interest in the area dates back to 1911, but it wasn’t until the Second World War that the US military actually established a base. It became a naval station in 1957 and provided employment for the people of Ceiba for many years.

Covering an area of some 8,500 acres, the base provided anchorage, docking, repairs, fuel and supplies for the US Navy’s Atlantic fleet and was used for flying practice.

At the heart of the base was a large airfield which today is operated as José Aponte de la Torre Airport, a public airport operated by Puerto Rico Ports Authority.

The naval station closed with the removal of most personnel in 2004 although the US military has kept a reserve centre in operation since 2011.