The latest foreign investment mega-project to be announced in the Dominican Republic is Novo Mundo XXI, a $450m undertaking to build an artificial island off the coast of Santo Domingo. The project was approved by the previous government last year but was parked on the back burner during the crisis that eventually brought Leonel Fernández to power last August.

The initiative for this project is the Spanish group Acciona, through its construction subsidiary Nesco Entrecanales. Spanish companies, such as Barceló and Occidental, are behind some of the major tourist developments in the country. Spain’s world-class architect Ricardo Bofill has been brought in to design the island and its tourist and commercial developments.

Advertisement

Novo Mundo XXI is envisaged to become a major attraction in the Dominican Republic, a six-mile-long island with a 10.7 million square foot surface area for hotels, conference and shopping centres and office blocks, as well as a 300-berth marina. The project will be managed by Spanish promoters and a Canadian development consortium called Santo Domingo Redevelopment. The work is expected to take five to 10 years to complete, with construction scheduled to commence by the end of this year.

City of dreams

The project, according to its promoters, will help to create a new image for the city of Santo Domingo and attract more tourists to the Dominican Republic. With 7500-8000 residential, commercial and office units housing 50,000 people, it is estimated that an investment of $10bn will be required by the time of completion.

Mr Bofill says that Novo Mundo XXI is first and foremost “an ambitious project that will bring a complete renovation of Santo Domingo’s marine front. It is a project of urban transformation designed to turn the city’s face towards the sea and provide the capital with a new skyline.”

Waterway clean-up

A spokesman for Nesco Entrecanales said one of the objectives was to improve the waterfront environment and provide a stimulus for tourists to visit the area. The work will entail the construction of a number of floodgates to ensure that no sewage from the River Ozama is leaked into the island waters during the rainy season.

“We also plan to clean up the city’s badly polluted beaches,” the spokesman said. “The idea is to create a new city in the sea to give the area a modern and dynamic life.”

Santo Domingo Redevelopment will be in charge of property sales, although Nesco Entrecanales is expected to acquire a stake in the property-marketing venture through its subsidiary Nesco Inmobiliaria. The eventual success of the promotional phase of the project will determine the number of residential and tourist dwellings to be built.

Several Spanish hotel and property groups have already expressed interest in taking part in the project. “This is entirely a private sector undertaking but the government is now reviewing the project in terms of its environmental impact,”

says Eduardo Selman, adviser to President Fernández who is acting as liaison between the government and the island’s promoters. “Once a favourable decision has been reached, the government will issue the relevant property development licences.”