Having long been the main attraction of Nicaragua’s urban real estate market, the colonial city of Granada has spawned a new wave of development that is stretching outward beyond city limits.
To the south, various projects are starting to snake their way up into the foothills of Mombacho Volcano, where a misty cloud forest gives way to a few prime lots perched high above the city.
To the west, various condominium projects, private homes and a new hotel are popping up along the recently completed Granada-Masaya highway, which reportedly will someday be home to a new shopping center and movie theater complex, if previously announced plans pan out.
Several kilometers farther to the west, the real estate and development market is booming at Laguna de Apoyo, the volcanic-crater lake that for years has offered a quiet nature retreat from the city.
On the east side of Granada, the shores of the massive Lake Nicaragua are now starting to be developed into an upper-end condominium project – an idea whose time has finally come.
The lakeshore along the recently revitalized stretch of bars and restaurants known as “el turismo” also boasts several new tourism projects, including Granada’s first driving range. Golfers can tee-up on an astroturf matt and drive the ball right into the lake; the floating balls eventually return to shore, pushed by the wind.
But the growth outside of Granada does not mean that developers are giving up on the historic center.
Granada still offers plenty of modest-priced, colonial fixer-uppers and a rapidly expanding number of remodeled colonial homes that are being resold, real estate agents here say. Prices, which increased some 300% during the past five years, dropped after the elections but have since started to recover (see separate story).
Despite the temporary lull in the market, a slew of new restaurants, bars and hotels have opened in the past six months, strengthening the city’s tourism offering and reinforcing its position as a leading destination in the country.
But the lure of life outside the city has become increasingly attractive in recent years.
Terry Rogan moved out of Granada and to Laguna de Apoyo three years ago, and never looked back.
His house now sits up on the crater ridge, about 12 kilometers away near the dark blue waters of Lake Apoyo, which offers some of the most refreshing swimming anywhere.
His neighbors include ex-Presidents, a former Miss Nicaragua, and a handful of North Americans who have bought the few available houses in the area.
Rogan, who sells custom-built homes through Laguna Apoyo Properties, owns a small condominium complex on top of the volcano’s crater and several properties close to the shore. He still has a few properties for sale, and interest is picking up, which is easy to understand for those who have visited the property. The rim of the volcanic crater offers stunning views, the breeze makes it cooler than the city and the barking of howler monkeys greets the late afternoon.
“It’s another world up here,” Rogan said.
Easy to Reach
Rogan says that he is not giving up much by living outside of Granada. The city is a quick 15-minute drive on surprisingly good roads. The artisan town of Masaya is just five minutes away, and the capital just 40 minutes by car. The best private hospital in the country, VivianPellasMetropolitanHospital, is a half-hour drive north.
“Everything is really convenient,” said Rogan. “Plus, it’s quiet and clean.”
Outside visitors rave about the beauty of the Laguna de Apoyo and the friendliness of the small community of Nicaraguans who live here. But many worry that the natural beauty could get lost if current development trends continue unabated.
Developers say they are taking environmental concerns to heart. A new residential development project, known as Los Congos, is likely to be the biggest at Laguna de Apoyo. It encompasses 220 hectares of land near the lake’s edge, offering three kilometers of pristine shoreline.
Once completed, there will be a restaurant, central plaza, swimming pool and several dozen bungalows.
Jeff Finch, who runs the project, insists the construction will blend with nature.
Finch said they have painstakingly chosen the lots by how they fit within the existing tree lines, rather than lining up bungalows right next to one another.
Any lost tree is replaced by five new ones, he said. And the actual buildings will take up just a small part of the reserve. A full 120 hectares are to be devoted to nature trails and undisturbed forest, he said.
“We are doing everything possible to preserve the environment,” Finch said at a recent International Living conference, where business was brisk.
Closer to Home
Though Lake Nicaragua is a major attraction in Granada, developers have not taken much advantage of the resource by building lakeshore homes. But that’s about to change.
Heading northeast from the busy colonial center of town is the area’s first-ever condominium complex, which boasts “million dollar views for $99,000,” the price of a twobedroom unit overlooking a quieter section of Lake Nicaragua.
Kenneth Cole, a former U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania who is helping run the project, says the prices won’t last long. The chance to “buy in on a dream”will go up several thousand dollars once the concrete foundations are poured, perhaps as soon as mid-April, he said.
“We’re moving fast,” said Cole, as 15 busy construction workers buzzed about the project.
Cole spent the early part of his career helping to dredge lakes in Pennsylvania, and now he seems thrilled to be building next to one in Nicaragua.
“I love construction,” said Cole. “It makes me feel like a kid.”
The gated development, called Brisas del Lago, will include 36 luxury condos, a large pool, boat dock, and a deck near the clubhouse to enjoy the views.
The first-floor rooms will offer excellent views, but the second-floor condos will be “even better,” Cole said.
Cole had originally looked to build condos near the ocean, but said he got bored after a few days of sleepy beach towns.
Besides, he adds, Lake Nicaragua is so big it feels like the ocean, but with the benefit of being on the edge of a bustling city with all the amenities.
“Granada is my favorite spot,” said the former congressman.