Virgin Grand
A Multi-Resort Development










A Multi-Resort Development

                            Business People Flocking to Costa Rica           
         In the article below, published in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal on March 31, 2006, staff writers Nicole Garrison and Sam Black explain the success of several developers. 
          
         Wayne Bishop was the first to bring a five-star resort to Costa Rica with the development of the Four Seasons at his Peninsula Papagayo project. Together with a golf course, this opened in 2001. Since then it has spurred the development of numerous projects in the Northwest area and sent prices skyrocketing. For centuries, Costa Rica had only small hotels that catered to fishermen and ecotourism. Many believe that the Four Seasons was the driving force behind the opening of the new Daniel Oduber International Airport, 45 minutes away in Liberia, and the reason for the dramatic improvement to the roads in the area. I talked to Bishop at length recently about his success and experiences developing in Costa Rica. For more information on the Four Seasons, visit www.fourseasons.com/costarica. 
         
         Developer Blaine Kirchert and Plaza Properties Corporation President John Cacciutti met at the Costa Rica Tourism Investment Summit recently. Kirchert has helped to guide Cacciutti in assembling a proven local team to work in concert with a renowned resort design specialists outside of Costa Rica. Today, Plaza shares the same council and commissions some of the same proven professionals that Kirchert employed and were used in the Four Seasons project as well. “We don’t want to waste time trying to blaze a new road in the permitting and approval process with newcomers.” Cacciutti explains. “Virgin Grand will be a exemplary, multi-resort complex that helps to protect and replenish this ecological wonder and we want proven people to make sure that this goal is accomplished.” 
         
         Business people flocking to Costa Rica 
         
         Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal - March 31, 2006          
         by Nicole Garrison-Sprenger and Sam Black, Staff Writers 
         
         When Wayne Bishop visited Costa Rica 12 years ago, he was wowed by the country's natural beauty, but he was even more taken aback by its investment potential. "If you had any entrepreneurial nose, you could see the raw opportunity there," he said. "Most developments have been mom-and-pop operations. ... There's an opportunity for them to be properly planned, Western style." 
         
         So Bishop, co-founder of Minneapolis architecture firm Walsh Bishop Inc., spent the next several years looking for land on which he could build a Western-style resort. In 2000, he and some co-investors, including the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation in St. Louis, broke ground on the first phase of Peninsula Papagayo, a project anchored by a golf course and a 210-room, five-star luxury hotel. That's just a fraction of the investment he and several other Minnesotans have made, or will make, in the Central American country. 
         
         While he declined to share names of the Twin Cities' developers and investors he's working with, Bishop said there are several. " I've been inundated with calls from Minnesotans that have land and are looking for my advice," said Bishop, who sold his interest in Papagayo to the Schwan Foundation and is working on several additional Costa Rican developments of his own. (The Schwan Foundation was established by The Schwan Food Co. founder Marvin Schwan, but is not part of the Marshall, Minn.-based company.) 
         
         "We're at the beginning of a huge land boom," Bishop said. Several other Minnesotans are taking part: 
         
         • Blaine Kirchert and Rich Pakonen, two St. Paul developers, have formed a joint venture and intend to enter the Costa Rican real estate market. Their first project is a 26-unit luxury condominium project in Playa del Coco on the country's West Coast. The pair is working on a much larger 250-acre mixed-use project in the center of the country. 
         
         • A group of Twin Cities investors, including former 3M Co. and Control Data Corp. executives, have opened a macadamia nut farm in the country. 
         
         • Graves Hotels Resorts of Minneapolis announced plans to develop a Graves-branded luxury hotel in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, also on the country's West Coast. It has two other properties there already. Graves operates Graves 601 Hotel Minneapolis, the former Le Meridien Hotel Block E development. 
         
         The relatively small country has become a popular vacation spot, and visitors are coming back to Minnesota enchanted, just as Bishop did. Word of what he and other entrepreneurs are doing in Costa Rica has spread, prompting more investment. The reasons are many. 
         
         One draw is the sheer number of U.S. citizens expected to move to Costa Rica. Bishop said he's heard the U.S. government say it anticipates 1 million Americans will retire in Costa Rica during the next 10 years. Others, like Bishop, say they simply become enchanted when they visit for pleasure. "There's a long heritage of Minnesotans going to Costa Rica during college because of their environmental-studies programs down there," Bishop said. "Today those young folks are adults, so there's a huge connection." 
         
         Pakonen, owner of Pak Properties, was an exchange student in Costa Rica for a few weeks in college. He was drawn to the country for its stability and beauty. There are many cultural differences between Minnesota and Costa Rica, he said, but for the most part, business is done the same way. People are educated and they do business "above board." 
         
         Pakonen decided to take a look more than a year ago after someone approached him with an opportunity to invest in some land. Potential developers need to consider that the Costa Rican government is active in protecting the environment. It limits the height of hotels along the coast so it doesn't become another Miami or Cancun, for example, Kirchert said. 
         
         Ecological tourism is the biggest contributor to the country's gross national product, and officials want to protect that. But it's not just developers pushing into the country. A Minnesota-based mortgage company is setting up shop down there, Bishop said. Other service companies will likely do the same as the Minnesota contingent there grows.
         
         For more on Kirchert Pokonen projects visit www.kirchertpakonen.com 
         
         In this article from the PR Newswire, United Business Media explains the unprecedented success of the planned Bahia Escondida Marina and Village. This project will be built in Golfito, which is in the largely undeveloped Southwest part of the country, and an area that many believed was too far from an international airport to attract interested parties. However, this is on the gorgeous Gulfo Duce, in close proximity to Corcovado National Park, and is protected from wind by the mountains. The seas are almost always calm and it offers some of the best fishing, diving and scuba diving in the country. 
         
         The project has no golf course or anchor hotel/resort and only recently broke ground around the time that the article below was published. When we visited the site in February 2007, they were just in the process of clearing and leveling sub-base stone, yet you will see from below that they’ve already sold a large portion of the project. 
         
       
  Costa Rica Marina Strategy Pays Off for 
         South Florida Real Estate Team
 
         
         
Digital Capital Group's Bahia Escondida Succeeds 
         
         as Bubble Bursts on U.S. Market          
         GOLFITO, Costa Rica, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- A few years ago, South Florida-based Digital Capital International Sales Group and developer Jim Lynskey began researching the possibility of creating a marina development in Costa Rica. What they found astounded them. 
         
         Despite being one of the world’s most renowned sport fishing destinations, the country had nowhere near enough yacht slips to support demand. And that gap would only continue to widen. According to research by Parker Associates, a leading marketing and sales consulting firm, there were approximately 1,200 private vessel arrivals in Costa Rica in 2005 – yet fewer than 325 marina slips to accommodate them. By 2010, more than 2,000 private vessel arrivals are expected, but less than 10 percent of the country’s residential and resort development includes a marina. And, once they arrived in Costa Rica, where would these wealthy sport fisherman stay? 
         
         “We immediately realized we had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Phil Perko, president and founder of Digital Capital. So, Perko, along with partners Richard Cipriano and brothers William and Jim Lynskey, joined to create Bahia Escondida, a residential, resort and marina destination situated on Costa Rica's Golfe Dolce Bay in the famed south Pacific resort town of Golfito. The project began construction last October and sales have been so strong throughout the fall and winter that the team recently announced price increases to reflect current values. The team reported tremendous sales success at the recent Fort Lauderdale and San Diego boat shows and is excited about its participation in the upcoming Miami International Boat Show, scheduled for Feb. 15 to 19. 
         
            For years, Cipriano and the Lynskey brothers, all South Florida natives, had achieved significant success developing and marketing real estate throughout the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. But the incredible demand for a marina project, along with the real estate bubble bursting in the U.S. market, has helped them exceed even their loftiest projections. 
         
         "It's been a combination of perfect timing and the ideal team," said Cipriano, Digital Capital's Vice President/Broker. "William and I understand the Costa Rica buyer like no one else. Jim is a master at real estate development and government negotiations and Phil's exceptional talent and operations experience provide a tremendous boost to our efforts. It was just meant to be." 
         
         Digital Capital, with offices in Boca Raton and Miami, admits it was difficult to maintain focus and fortitude the past couple of years. While the South Florida real estate market was peaking, the team was dealing with Costa Rica's notoriously slow permitting process. 
         
         "It was a struggle at times but we knew it would pay off in the long run," Cipriano said. "All great things take time and patience." Perko notes Bahia Escondida is primarily luring vacation homebuyers and real estate investors who are turned off by skyrocketing property taxes and insurance rates in the U.S. and what they perceive as overdevelopment in South Florida and the Caribbean. 
         
         Merging miles of picturesque beach coves, national parks, rain forests and world-class fishing, Bahia Escondida is nestled within the heart of one of the most bio-diverse locations on the planet. And the area's safe, natural harbor is located within the closest sheltered bay to the Panama Canal. In fact, due to insurance restrictions, Golfito is the only Central American bay at which Dockwise and Yachtpath International are authorized to deliver yachting vessels. 
         
         "Location ... location ... location. The old real estate adage is certainly true," Perko said. "Not only can buyers set out each morning to catch world-record marlin, sailfish and roosterfish, but they do it amongst breathtaking natural beauty and abundant wildlife." 
         
         Priced from $300,000 to $800,000, Bahia Escondida offers one-, two- and three-bedroom waterfront residences surrounded by picturesque views of Costa Rica's native rainforest and towering mountains. The low-rise buildings will be integrated within the unique Plantation Victorian-style village creating the quintessential destination for those seeking luxurious amenities in an authentic, laid back lifestyle. Marina slips ranging in size from 45 to 220 feet are priced from the low $200,000s and will include golf cart concierge service and a high-speed fuel dock. When complete, Bahia Escondida will feature 217 marina slips and approximately 400 hotel and condominium units. Phase II is scheduled for introduction in 3rd quarter of 2007. 
         
         Bahia Escondida is accessible via daily commercial flights into Golfito from San Jose, Costa Rica. Coral Gables, Fla.-based OBM International is the project architect. 
         
         Digital Capital can be reached on the web at http://www.digitalcapitalgroup.com. For more information, call (866) 50-BAHIA or visit http://www.bahiaescondidacostarica.com.