A Sustainable Development In Southern Costa Rica
In the southern pacific zone of Costa Rica there is development that is unlike any other in the region, if not the entire western hemisphere. Sitting at an elevation of between 1,400 to 3,000 feet is 780 acres of pristine land, most of which is primary, old growth rain forest. The remaining portion of the property was once used as pasture land for grazing cattle. It is within this area of about 50 acres that something unique is happening. A development with an unusual concept that may become a model community for the rest of the world to learn from is beginning to take form.
The project has been named Osa Mountain Village and is the dream child of a man by the name Jim Gale. Jim Gale purchased the land that comprises Osa Mountain Village about 6 years ago site unseen. Working with a local real estate agent that knew what he was searching for, he received a call from the agent one day boasting that he had found the perfect property for Jim. After emailing some photos to Jim of the views from the property Jim put down a hefty 6 figure deposit without ever stepping foot on the property, trusting in the agent’s judgment.
To close the deal, Jim came down to Costa Rica with some friends that expressed an interest in partnering with him in the purchase of the property. All five of the friends he brought to see the property wanted in on the project… whatever it was going to become. At that time Jim was looking for a property to develop into housing lots and he created Amelia’s Estates, named after his daughter.
Twenty three ocean view housing lots were created on the perimeter of the property. The lots had some of the most amazing views in all of Costa Rica. These lots only represented a very small portion of the property though. Most of the property and the area that had once been devoted to grazing cattle was not touched in creating these housing lots. Jim and his partners had many ideas thrown their way about what should be done with the remaining area of the property. Many conversations with experts in real estate development gave their opinions regarding the property and many things were considered.
After much deliberation with the partners Jim noticed that there was a growing trend towards ecologically sustainable developments taking place in the USA and abroad. Upon researching this trend further is was decided by all that the property was perfect for such a development. After all, what could be better than building a sustainable community in the greenest and happiest country on the planet?
Jim’s research into sustainable developments led him to an architectural firm based out of Wisconsin called TKWA Architects that had already won many awards for their sustainable designs. Jim wanted to create a community where the inhabitants could live a life with very low to no impact on the environment, coupled with a very low cost of living and hired TKWA to put together a master-plan for the community.
Much thought went into how large of a community the property could support and still remain sustainable. The goal was to have the property be able to support all the permanent residents with plenty of water and food grown on the property as well as the transient residents whenever they visited their villa for vacation. If the property was designed correctly it could potentially provide 80% of the food needed by the community and any excess food that was produced could be traded or sold for those items not able to be grown on the property.
While a master-plan was being put together by TKWA Architects for the development, over 2,000 fruit trees were planted on the property along with 2,000 pineapple plants. The original plans TKWA came up with called for 250 villas on the property, but after careful consideration and input from several experts on food production Jim decided to cut that number down to 150 villas and housing lots to make sure there would be enough food for the entire community.
Paulo Faerron, a graduate of Earth university, was hired to help with laying out the food production principles that would guide the community. Jim soon discovered that modern growing techniques known as vertical gardening, could produce the equivalent of acres worth of vegetables and spices grown traditionally in an area of only a few thousand square feet. The more Jim learned about permaculture design, the more he realized how simple it is to create a community governed by these principles.
Once the final designs were agreed on the permitting process was next on the agenda. In Costa Rica, there are numerous government agencies that handle use of land, building permits, etc. Environmental impact studies need to be conducted and the process is both lengthy and expensive. To make matters more complicated, the government had recently started to crack down on projects that were in development and double check the permitting of virtually every project in the country, but in particular the southern pacific region.
One of the primary reasons for this was that in the north pacific part of the country unscrupulous developers had paid off officials to get their projects permitted more quickly and to skirt some of the permitting process. Once word of this had gotten out the crack down began. As was suspected, the same thing was happening in the southern part of the country. Unscrupulous developers had paid off officials and they soon found their projects shut down in mid construction. Unfortunately, many people have been hurt financially that bought into projects being built by some of these developers. I almost invested in one of these projects myself.
The great thing about all of this is that the southern area is now developing in just the way that it should be. No one can pay off officials to get their projects launched more quickly or to bypass the system without serious repercussions. The permitting process is now being watched closely and after more than 2 years and many thousands of dollars Jim recently recently received his final stamp of approval from SETENA in April of this year. SETENA permits are the hardest to get and take the longest to acquire but they are only one of about a dozen agencies that must be dealt with and sign off and a project to get it from the planning stage to the building stage.
The southern pacific zone of Costa Rica is an area of special interest to the retiring president of the country and a new hospital and a new airport were slated for construction to open tourism to that area several years ago. The new hospital, which opened August of last year, is located in the town of Puerto Cortez, which is only 4 minutes up the road on the coast highway from the turn off to Osa Mountain Village. The planned location for the new international airport is about 20 minutes south of the turn off and is slated to begin construction sometime in 2010 but has not broken ground as of the writing of this article.
For many years roads to the southern pacific zone have been over bridges that were built in the 1940’s which were slowly disappearing due to local residents stealing metal for other projects and were becoming more and more treacherous to cross. Plans were made by the government several years back to replace these bridges and improve the coast highway from Manuel Antonio to the southern area where the fishing town of Dominical resides. Roads from Dominical south had recently been improved so once this section of highway was completed it would be a clear and easy drive Manuel Antonio to the Panama border. The highway was just completed in April and now the southern and northern areas are connected by a new paved highway all the way from the Nicaraguan border to the Panamanian border. Much to the benefit of Jim and Osa Mountain Village accessibility has been greatly improved now that the road is finished.
Two years ago the property was appraised at 9.4 million dollars with no buildings on it. 200 shares in the project were created and some of those shares were sold to outside investors to raise additional capital to move forward with the master-plan of Osa Mountain Village.
Jim hired another Costa Rican firm to design the villas for Osa Mountain Village since TKWA was not a licensed architectural firm in Costa Rica. The villas are being built by an american builder by the name of Gary Morris of Hacienda Grande. Gary is originally from Los Angeles and had been building in Costa Rica for quite some time when Jim found him. One of his recent projects in Quepos, the Pacifico Colonial, earned him a nomination for “the best building in Central America”. The villas that Gary is building at Osa Mountain Village come with high end finishes like granite counter tops and real hardwood floors and cabinets. On a recent visit to Osa Mountain Village I was able to see the heavy equipment on site moving dirt to create the roads that will allow access to all parts of the development.
Jim Gale is a man that seems to be both smart and hard working with a dash of luck thrown in. During the mortgage boom several years back his firm wrote 1.3 billion dollars worth of loans in 3 years. That boom is what enabled him to start buying properties in Nicaragua and Costa Rica which eventually led him to the property that is now becoming Osa Mountain Village. At the time the property was purchased, Jim did not know that a plan was in the works by the government of Costa Rica to build a new hydro-electric dam just over hill from where Osa Mountain Village sits. The new dam will provide electricity to the southern area that is developing rapidly and for the northern part of Panama as well.
One of the exciting things about the hydro-electric dam project is that it will create a new 21 square mile lake which will bring a host of new water sports and fresh water fishing to the southern area of the country. Currently, only Lake Arenal in the north of the country is large enough for boating and fishing, but due to it’s cooler climate and windy conditions only a handful of boats are even registered on the lake and the only sporting enthusiasts that seem to use the lake are windsurfers even though the lake is 33 square miles in size. The new lake that will be created from this project will be a great asset to the residents and visitors of Osa Mountain Village. Osa Mountain Village will be one of the closest ocean view developments to the new lake. Being the only other large lake in Costa Rica and having much better weather in that part of the country it is expected to be an amazing draw once it is completed in 2016.
When you couple the unique nature of a sustainable resort community with the incredible views from the property, the new airport, the new hospital, the new dam creating a new lake and the high quality of construction being offered at Osa Mountain Village you can begin to see why this project is gaining huge attention and why sales are moving at a rapid pace now that construction has begun.
Jim has also chosen to market Osa Mountain Village in a unique way as well. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on advertising, Jim has chosen to let anyone that purchases a villa, fractional unit or shares at Osa Mountain Village to become a “sales person” (if you can even call them that) to market Osa Mountain Village. Referrals can earn the refering partner from 5% to 10% commission if a sale results. Although the 200 original shares in the project have all been spoken for the villas look to be an incredible deal starting at $119,000 for a one bedroom, $149,000 for a unit with a loft, which is essentially a two bedroom unit, and $239,000 for a 2 to 3 bedroom home with double the square footage of the one bedroom villa. Fractional units start at $20,000 for a one bedroom unit and entitles the purchaser to 4 weeks a year for life. Loft units are priced at $25,000 and full homes are priced at $36,000 for 4 weeks a year. All fractional units come fully furnished. Dues are $150 per 4 week share per year and includes all the fresh healthy food you can eat while staying at Osa Mountain Village.
The entire project is expected to take 3 years to build out completely but based on recent sales activity Jim expects the project to sell out long before that. The property has no debt and Jim says it never will have any, refusing to borrow against the property. Villas are being built only as they are sold and sales are outpacing the ability of the builder at the moment.
Business opportunities are available at Osa Mountain Village for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Already on the property is an 11 line zip line “canopy tour” and a canyoning/waterfall “rappelling tour”. Buyers at Osa Mountain Village are also putting in a horseback riding tour, hiking and camping tours, a weight loss camp and much more. Eventually tourists visiting Osa Mountain Village will have a wide variety of things available for them to do right on the property and there is even talk about offering all-inclusive stays for visitors. If you feel you have what it takes and have dreamed of starting a business in paradise Osa Mountain Village might be just what the doctor ordered. Jim’s idea of a network of businesses within the community where only one of each business type is part of the network will provide a built-in clientele where each business helps support the whole the network and the success of all the businesses.
Jim has recently the fly & buy program where visitors can stay 3 nights for $450. The price includes 3 meals a day, a canopy tour, eco tour and a party while you check things out at the property and in the local area which already has some of the best restaurants in the country. Transportation can be arranged once you are in Costa Rica and Jim will personally pick you up at the bus station in San Isidro and take you to the property. He also offers a great fly and buy program that will reimburse up to $1,000 for an individual and $1,500 per couple for travel expenses if they purchase at Osa Mountain Village.
Whether you are interested in a slower paced life, a new business venture in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, or just a place to come and play with an endless supply of things to do, Osa Mountain Village offers it all. All four kinds of monkeys found in Costa Rica live on the property as well as many other interesting animals. It is located in what has been called by National Geographic “the most bio-diverse area on the planet” and they called the climate at this elevation “the world’s perfect climate”, which averages about 72 degrees during the day throughout the year.
If you would like more information about Osa Mountain Village you can use the form at the bottom of this page and your request for more information will be forwarded to Jim and his partners and someone will get back to you quickly. You can also get more information at OsaMountainAdventures.com On Thursday evenings at 6 pm pacific time Jim co-hosts a webinar where potential purchasers can get all of there questions answered before coming down to visit the project and see things first hand. If you come to Costa Rica and visit Osa Mountain Village you may not want to leave, but at the very least you will be witness to what is sure to become one of the most amazing communities on earth.
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