Mon­tene­gro: a new Al­garve?

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

ne­gro was full of spec­u­la­tors look­ing for cheap land and prop­erty to in­vest in, but the cri­sis also put paid to many am­bi­tions. When it emerged from the re­ces­sion a new era had dawned: much prop­erty devel­op­ment in places such as Spain, Por­tu­gal and Turkey had proved to be fi­nan­cially dis­as­trous and other desti­na­tion coun­tries, in­clud­ing Mon­tene­gro, took heed.

Its very slow and bu­reau­cratic plan­ning sys­tem has also helped pre­serve the coun­try’s crown jew­els along the Bay of Ko­tor, a World Her­itage Site, in­clud­ing an­cient walled towns, Vene­tian man­sions and is­land monas­ter­ies.

Slowly, mil­i­tary sites full of rust­ing hulks that oc­cu­pied the best parts of the coast­line be­gan to make way for prop­erty projects such as Porto Mon­tene­gro, the luxury ma­rina built on the old naval base at Ti­vat. But it was hard work; John Kennedy, co-founder of the Boka Group, re­calls the early days. “When we first looked at the site, the govern­ment told us that it was not tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble to de­velop it as a ma­rina,” he says. “I told them if we could land a space probe on Mars, we could do this.”

There was an old gen­eral in charge when the team ar­rived to start sur­veys, re­mem­bers Kennedy: “Photo pro­hib­ited,” he cried. “But we’ve just bought the site,” said Kennedy. “No dif­fer­ence. Photo pro­hib­ited.”

Now, the coun­try is up­ping its game, with high­end de­vel­op­ments fill­ing its coast­line with luxury ameni­ties to com­pete with the likes of the Al­garve and south­ern Spain. Mil­lions of self­ies will have been taken here since that day, and the wall of su­pery­achts an­chored in the ma­rina gives a hint of the su­per­star sta­tus now at­tach­ing it­self to Mon­tene­gro. Fur­ther south along the coast, the re­sort vil­lage of Sveti Ste­fan has been given a makeover by the ul­tra-lux­u­ri­ous Aman re­sorts. In its hey­day in the Six­ties and Sev­en­ties, the walled-in is­land, which is ac­cessed by a long bridge through the sea, was the play­ground of the rich and fa­mous, such as El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Sophia Loren and Princess Mar­garet.

In sum­mer, the coun­try’s year-round pop­u­la­tion of 600,000 swells to more than two mil­lion. This is a fig­ure that will surely rise fur­ther as Mon­tene­gro’s new­est su­per-luxury project is com­pleted. Luštica Bay, on the Adri­atic coast­line of the Luštica Penin­sula, is a €1.1bil­lion (£981mil­lion) devel­op­ment near Ti­vat, which now has reg­u­lar flights from the UK.

Set in 1,700 acres, Luštica Bay is the lat­est project of the Egyp­tian ty­coon Samih Sawiris, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Oras­com Devel­op­ment Hold­ing. Famed for build­ing en­tire new towns in seem­ingly dif­fi­cult lo­ca­tions, Sawiris was be­hind the cre­ation of El Gouna, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. He also helped to de­velop a new ski re­sort at An­der­matt in Switzer­land, that was once a bar­ren, in­ac­ces­si­ble vil­lage high in the Alps.

Luštica Bay – an­other dif­fi­cult lo­ca­tion with no road ac­cess, steep hills, nu­mer­ous small­hold­ings and an ex­posed coast un­suited to ma­rina devel­op­ment – be­came the next mis­sion im­pos­si­ble. When fin­ished, it will have seven ho­tels, 500 vil­las, more than 1,000 apartments, two mari­nas, a small school and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

On top of this there are shops, restau­rants, a spa and sports ameni­ties, in­clud­ing a planned Gary Player-de­signed golf course. This is a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge due to wa­ter, says Dar­ren Gib­son, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Luštica Devel­op­ment. “But it is a key part of the project.”

The first ho­tel, the Chedi, opened last month op­po­site the main ma­rina, which also has condo stu­dios for in­vestors. The Ma­rina Vil­lage, over­look­ing the Bay of Trašte, has al­ready wel­comed its first res­i­dents.

For a brand-new place, the devel­op­ment has a lot of au­then­tic­ity, and ap­pears like a hig­gledy-pig­gledy vil­lage perch­ing on the side of a lush for­est. The ar­chi­tects have been care­ful to make it look like just an­other part of the coun­try: “Ev­ery­thing has va­ri­ety, so it does not look like it was all built at once, but scat­tered and un­planned which is typ­i­cal of Croa­tia and Mon­tene­gro,” says Slav­ica Milic, a mem­ber of the mar­ket­ing team.

This in­cludes ev­ery­thing from ir­reg­u­lar streets to mul­ti­coloured shut­ters, and even the floor plans are not iden­ti­cal. “The ar­chi­tects wanted au­then­tic lo­cal el­e­ments, and the prop­er­ties fol­low the ver­nac­u­lar style of three floors plus an at­tic, and the use of stone and wood,” she adds.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of build­ing on this pris­tine stretch of shore­line has been mit­i­gated in nu­mer­ous ways. To pre­vent dam­age to the sea­grasses, for ex­am­ple, there will be moor­ing buoys and pon­toons in the bay. Ex­ten­sive ir­ri­ga­tion, re­cy­cling, waste man­age­ment and use of lo­cal ma­te­ri­als also play a ma­jor part.

Prices have risen dra­mat­i­cally since the devel­op­ment has taken shape: in 2012, homes with a sea view were on the mar­ket for €260 per sq ft, but they have now risen to more than €530 per sq ft. The devel­op­ment caters to ev­ery bud­get: you can pick up a stu­dio flat for €120,000, or a €2.4mil­lion luxury villa. “Prices are prob­a­bly not go­ing to con­tinue ris­ing in this way,” says Gib­son. “But they are com­pet­i­tive and there is still room for growth. Per square me­tre we are half the price of Western Europe.”

The area is ap­peal­ing to buy­ers from across the world who see it as an upand-com­ing luxury re­sort, says Ahmed Zaki, the direc­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing. “We have 33 na­tion­al­i­ties of buy­ers here, with many from the Gulf. They saw what hap­pened in Croa­tia to prop­erty prices and in Mon­tene­gro all the eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors are on the rise.”

Qatari Diar has plans to build a Four Sea­sons Ho­tel down on the coast at Plavi Hor­i­zonti beach, and Porto Mon­tene­gro, ac­quired by the Dubai In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion in 2016, con­tin­ues to ex­pand. The lat­est phase of devel­op­ment is the Re­gent Pool Res­i­dences, 62 apartments that pay trib­ute to the area’s naval her­itage.

To fu­ture-proof its ma­rina, a se­ries of berths has been planned that will take even big­ger yachts than it cur­rently does. A few miles away in the Bay of Ko­tor, Porto Mon­tene­gro has an 18th-cen­tury res­i­dent sail­ing ship, a Puro Beach area and fash­ion­able shops and places to eat.

“Porto Mon­tene­gro is, with Luštica Bay, the other all-round shin­ing star when it comes to sales rates and prices achieved in 2018,” says Kieran Kelle­her of Sav­ills. “The vil­lage gets bet­ter each year with new of­fer­ings, re­tail, and en­ter­tain­ment at­tract­ing buy­ers from all over the world.”

But de­vel­op­ing prop­erty in Mon­tene­gro is not al­ways a recipe for suc­cess: along the coast at Portonovi, the high­end €650mil­lion ma­rina devel­op­ment in Herceg Novi, buy­ers are staying away. “Sales have been slug­gish due to it tar­get­ing the very top of the mar­ket,” adds Kelle­her.

The new homes at Luštica Bay were de­signed to look au­then­tic

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