(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. See Part 1.)
MANZANILLO, Colima, Mexico — There’s a reason the most popular Mexican second-home areas are popular: They got a huge helping hand from the government.
Over the past 30 years, the national tourism agency, FONATUR, has created and actively promoted five Integrally Planned Resorts (IPRs) that have become the backbone of Mexico’s tourism industry. These resort destinations, which include Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, have proven themselves to be more successful than many of the country’s other destinations, garnering average hotel occupancy rates of approximately 65 percent and capturing approximately 55 percent of the country’s foreign revenue from tourism.
FONATUR now has plans for several new projects. The Costa Maya Integrally Planned Tourism Project (ITP) is moving forward on the jungled coast south of Cancun; the Nayarit IPR is underway north of Puerto Vallarta; and the Mar de Cortes Project is under study on the upper west coast of the mainland and along the east side of the Baja Peninsula.
Obviously, not every project has the benefit of years of FONATUR interest and dollars.
Bob Koens, a Santa Maria, Calif., native who moved to Minneapolis years ago to become an assistant basketball coach at the University of Minnesota, is heading up an investor group that is developing a new, 530-acre, $500-million project on the coast just north of town. Las Cascadas de Manzanillo (www.vivacascadas.com) is a five-star, gated community, featuring winding cobblestone streets, waterfalls and lagoons and a golf course with home sites averaging $145,000.
“Manzanillo is without a doubt a beautiful place,” says Koens. “The temperature is perfect and the beaches are spectacular. Even though you are able to find beaches and beautiful places all over the world, it is the people that really make Manzanillo a marvelous and special place one would not want to leave. The people are friendly and very welcoming.”
It was the people and weather that lured Koens’ in-laws and a number of other Minnesotans to Manzanillo, about 145 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, more than three decades ago. Many families would gather south of the border for special holiday vacations and became active in the community and with cultural events. Each time the families returned to the United States, more people would ask about the draw of the area and the possibility of buying property there.
In 2003, the Minnesota contingent considered building a series of condominiums adjacent to the Karmina Palace, a popular destination resort on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. While doing research on the waterfront parcel, a larger hillside property piece — an abandoned subdivision that the Mexican government had ordered to be liquidated — became available by private offering to approved investors. The group raised the capital from friends and bankers to buy the 530 acres. Koens’ popularity didn’t hurt — his long-standing relationships with city and state officials have the locals calling him “Ambassador Bob.”
Joe Schneider, chief operating officer, said the development group envisions three to five hotels and hundreds of housing units, including condominiums and single-family houses. Some of the homes, hotels, restaurants and shops will circle a natural lagoon that serves as the project’s signature amenity. The property’s rising elevations feature ocean views from virtually every vantage point.
Manzanillo, now larger than Puerto Vallarta with a population of 130,000, is also growing more popular on the commercial front. View homes appreciated approximately 30 percent from 2003-2005, and its port business has surpassed Veracruz, making Manzanillo the largest port in Mexico. Expansion is also underway to make the port even larger and deeper to accommodate bigger ships, heavier traffic and even more foreign and Mexican companies whose business interests center around cargo movement. Several cruise ship lines are now making Manzanillo one of their main stops.
“All of these snowbirds have been heading to Phoenix or Orlando, but some of these people can no longer afford Florida or are looking to something different,” Koens explained. “We are going to provide that in Manzanillo. After seeing the home prices skyrocket in Los Cabos, we are feeling very positive about our possibilities.”
Tom Kelly’s new book, “Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Sell and Profit from Property South of the Border,” was written with Mitch Creekmore, senior vice president of Houston-based Stewart International. The book is available in retail stores, on Amazon.com and on www.tomkelly.com.