A building in bad need of a renovation is certainly Alhambra Casino and Shopping Bazaar, as it is officially called. Located in the heart of the Divi properties in the low rise district, this project was virtually abandoned by owner Divi Resorts for many years. Off course Divi is busy expanding and renewing their other resort properties on the island.
Currently, the renovation work is focused on the outside of the main building. A brand (grand?) entrance has been build, while the outer walls are getting a once over. Divi announced recently that it close the sports lounge inside to completely rebuild that area.
The shopping area has advanced to the roof structure now. Generally this means that the construction is 25% advanced. The rest generally takes longer as detailing takes a lot of time. This is going to take a few more months to complete it seems. Divi insists that the casino remains open for operation.
I’m sure the title grabbed your attention, especially if you are a frequent visitor to the island of Aruba. If you are not familiar with the story, here’s a quick recap.
Aruba’s number one tourist attraction, by far, was the world famous Natural Bridge, also known locally as Cura di Turtuga (freely translated to Turtles Cove). This bridge was made of limestone and was the largest of its kind in the Caribbean.
Recent image of Natural Bridge
Throughout the years it attracted millions of people who fell in love with this massive natural structure, including the relentless punishing it received from the waves. Usually people walked across and the more adventurous ones swam underneath, fighting the waves.
Unfortunately the Natural Bridge succumbed under its massive weight and collapsed on September 2, 2005. The same natural elements that created this bridge, proved to be equally lethal. The bridge didn’t stand a chance. Above image depicts how the situation is currently. Thousands of people still visit the bridge on a yearly basis. Despite the presence of another, smaller bridge, the magic is gone and will never be the same again.
Numerous people have asked me if I thought it was going to rebuild and fixed in its original form, which I answered with a resounding no. However earlier this week I read an article in a local paper which suggested that there are plans in the works to revive the area. More specifically they want to create a natural pool-like structure.
To make this a reality is not that hard, I reckon. Just remove some rocks in the middle to let some water pass through and voilà. The question is, do we need and want a Natural Pool there? It still attracts a lot of people as is and if you build something where people will stay longer, perhaps it’ll change the whole scene there. I’m not sold on the whole idea, but I don’t hate it either.
I’m sure everyone has an opinion about this but take this into consideration: when Baby Beach was created and rocks were piled there to shut of the water I don’t remember reading about people complaining back then. Now, decades later, Baby Beach is one the most popular beaches in Aruba.
After last week’s Quick Hits post containing updates on a wide variety of projects currently ongoing in Aruba, I decided to write a sequel. I’ve received an avalanche of emails from people asking me to write more about other projects as well. Gladly. Here is Quick Hits #2.
Something new I’m doing with these post now is linking to various sites relating to the subject matter, hopefully making the content more useful. Note that all links will open a new tab or window.
Natura Residences Aruba [Image by Natural Residences website]
A few years ago many new condo projects start popping out of the ground like wild mushrooms, however, most of them never materialized due the economic crisis. Fact is that financing dried up and most projects paralyzed or stopped altogether.
Until now that is. The money-flow for new condo developments seem to have restarted and a new project has presented itself: Natura Residences at Eagle Beach Aruba. Construction has started and is located between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach, north of Blue Residence Club (defunct The Cliff Residences) and south of Divi Phoenix Aruba timeshare towers.
The developer of Natura Residencias (note the spelling in the logo is in Spanish “Residencias”) is Natura Development, a company registered at the Chamber of Commerce on January 30, 2007 and a local national and a Venezuelan, according to official records. The sales office is located in The Village mall (in Palm Beach across Radisson Resort). The Village is (co-)owned by the same local national mentioned above.
The increase of development and construction in Aruba comes inherently with criticism, from both locals and tourist. While I’m not going to get into that topic right now (this post is called Quick Hits) I want to emphasize that this development is different from what’s we’ve seen recently on this island. In fact it reminds me more of the Boardwalk on steroids. Natura’s going to to feature 20 units (or town houses as they are called nowadays) which is going to have a different architectural style and overall theme in comparison to other projects. It certainly won’t high rise development and the theme is more earthy and Caribbean.
I visited the construction site the other day and observed construction of what seems to be two model-units. The rest of the terrain is empty.
Super Food is currently located on the main road going to the hotel area, just before reaching the low rise hotel area, across the street of defunct Bushiri Resort. Super Food has big expansion plans and is building a brand new facility east of Tropicana Aruba and west of Sasaki Apartments. Formerly Adventure Golf miniature golf and Black Hog Saloon were located there. After a long construction delay (which is normal in Aruba) Super Food recently started the construction.
This supermarket seems to target now not only the local shopper, but more directly the tourists as well. Apart from groceries, bread and meat, they are offering rental spaces for other merchants to open shop there as well. Think of a farmacy and florist.
Iconic bar and restaurant Mambo Jambo has been sold. Owner Aruba Wine and Dine lost confidence in the project after losing business due to the move of clientele from down town to Palm Beach area. The new owner, who has experience in this field, said he’s planning to turn things around. The name “Mambo Jambo” is likely to disappear.
The original project was called The Cliff but the project ultimately was abandoned. The Cliff was under development by Venezuelan Pering Group, which was simultaneously developing Oceania Condominium. Oceania Condo was delivered but The Cliff didn’t make it.
A few years has gone by and Pering decided to give another go. They changed the name to Blue Residence Club but the logo and plans shows similarities with defunct The Cliff condo. This is going to be a relatively tall building consisting of 127 units. The plans on the website suggests four models, the smallest being 1024 square feet (95 square meter) and the biggest 617 square feet (297 square meter). Very spacious. Unit prices start at $418,000.
Low budget resort Aruba Millennium, located off Palm Beach, has been up for sale for some time. Last year the property exchanged owners and is now owned by Venezuelan investors. Soon after the property was officially acquired, renovation work started, only to stop just as quickly. It’s been sitting without any activity for months.
Lastly a final word of advice from me: if you’re in the market for condo property, beware of notorious construction delays and moving deadlines.
Most legal documents are in Dutch (Aruba’s official language). You cannot demand English or Spanish documents as Dutch is our official language. Just pay a guy to have look at it. It’s puzzling for me to see how many people refuse to hire a guy for $1K or so to go through the documents while on the other side are more than willing to commit $300K option to purchase, sometimes without having a clue what the contract says. Buyer beware.
In terms of tourism development at lot went on during my 6 month absence, as you can image. This post is especially interesting for the repeat visitors to Aruba or just for the one who are curious by nature. I’m touching each project briefly just to get you up to speed. At a later time I will elaborate on the individual projects, including several pictures. Let’s get to it.
The construction at Alhambra Casino has been ongoing for the better part of the year. Currently work is being done at the main entrance which is on the east end. On top of the main entrance a dome is being build to give the casino entrance a grand appearance.
Construction at Ritz Carlton Aruba
On the eastern part a new section is being constructed, which seems to going to function as a storage room or staff area. The parking area is completely finished, including new asphalt pavement, desert landscaping and LED parking lights.
The shopping area that use to be there was razed to make place for a new, better organized shopping area. The retail section still needs months of construction. Only food retail business to remain open during construction is Subway restaurant.
Renovation at Tropicana Resort is ongoing, at a slow pace it seems. The old temporary banners with the resort titles made place for more permanent titles. Tropicana chose for a retro design using white letters on top circles with green background and gold trim for the second part of the resort name. The casino’s name is now Trop Casino. As of today the casino hasn’t resume business. The restaurant there is open for business. By the way I saw a couple of juicy deals on their website for the coming months. Have at it.
The island government has pushed for the construction of a linear park across the street from Talk of the Town Resort (this resort is located on the way to Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, just after the airport). The linear park is an open and accessible park for locals and visitors alike.
The first contours of the park are becoming visible and I must say that I’m actually pleasantly surprised at the first shapes of this park. I could see myself hanging out there with the family. The complete plan entails the largest linear park of the Caribbean connecting the park from Talk of the Town to the hotel area by the beaches.
Oasis is practically finished, with only a few more minor details that need some work. The way things are going I believe guests could be arriving weeks before year’s end. It really looks nice. I’ll have to tour the place to see the quality in the detail and finish.
Construction at Acqua Condo continues to be ongoing, but not without the well documented issues. This time the issue isn’t the construction itself, rather the fact that some buyers are complaining about getting a different unit than initially was agreed upon. Sigh… By the way, I read that on a forum.
I have always been a fan of Taste of Belgium and related restaurants. You should check them out. They have a great Facebook page with up to date pictures of the construction at Taste of Belgium Restaurant.
North of Marriott Resort, construction of Ritz Carlton continues without novelties. This luxury resort is expected to be delivered somewhere in 2013.
Construction at La Cabana continues. Big parts of the resort has been delivered, including the front facade and lobby. I think the renovation should help La Cabana fix issues it had recently due to the previous lack of maintenance.
These are just a couple of developments I covered, many more to come in the coming time. I’ve added some links for your convenience. Have a great week.
The renovation work at Alhambra continues at a blazing fast speed. The whole shopping area structure was razed, leaving only the casino and sandwich shop Subway standing. The parking area has been paved on the southern part. Currently the parking area on the eastern part being constructed.
The casino building is also being renovated right now. The outside is getting a mostly cosmetic work. Needless to say that the inside also needs a renovation badly. The developer reiterated that the casino would remain open throughout the whole process.
South side of Alhambra Casino
Things are certainly looking up for the whole development there. The new development, construction and re-construction fits perfectly with the other properties of Divi Resorts, which are also under renovation. In the combination of photos you can see the current progress.
In a news conference local giant tour operator De Palm Tours announced the acquisition of Atlantis Adventures. Atlantis offers submarine and semi-submarine excursions. Additionally they offers shore services to cruise lines. Officials from both companies announced that that the transaction was finalized on February 1, 2011 (almost two weeks ago), without offering details about the sum involved. This transaction was rumored for some time and comes as no surprise. Atlantis was purchased back in the 90s for $4 million by the – now – former owners.
De Palm Tours claims it won’t effect the operation of neither company as both companies will continue to operate separately. On the short term perhaps but not on the long term. I believe this acquisition makes a lot of sense. Now De Palm Tours has a better filled portfolio of products and services. Whether or not this deal will be beneficial to the customers has yet to be seen.
De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis
I see some issues down the road, however. De Palm Tours has now become more powerful in the shore excursion scene, beware cruise ships. I foresee a cut in positions in the future. For example, some of these excursions are executed with two staff (De Palm Tour bus driver and Atlantis tour guide) which now could be done by just the driver alone. Lastly, just a few months ago Atlantis partnered with another company – in direct competition to De Palm Tours – to launch a bus tour operation that now has an uncertain future. Acquisitions are very uncommon in Aruba, only deep pocketed companies (or have good connections to local banks) are able to do this and there aren’t too many of them.