Issued : Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:00 AM
Puerto Rico will eventually have the largest tourism and residential resort in the Caribbean
By : JOSÉ L. CARMONA
Edition: December 2, 2010 | Volume: 38 | No: 47
Royal Isabela with 426 acres, 3.5 miles of beachfront and only minutes away from the longest runway airport of the Caribbean, Aguadilla, will finish first phase next summer
Pasarell brothers’ $100 million private golf club, hotel and real-estate resort will create 350 jobs during its first phase; bring upscale visitors and investors to the island
The coastal town of Isabela is known as “El Jardín del Noroeste” (The Garden of the Northwest) for its wildflowers, butterflies and farms. It is also recognized worldwide as a surfing spot, having hosted two World Cup of Surfing championships, the most recent one just last month.
But Isabela (named in honor of Queen Isabela I of Spain in 1819) is also being recognized locally and abroad as the site of Royal Isabela, the $100 million private golf club, hotel and real-estate project being developed on 426 oceanfront acres of land by Costa Isabela Partners Inc. The development firm was founded in 2008 by brothers Stanley and Charlie Pasarell and partner Edwin Pérez, president of Puerto Rico Supplies.
While work on the golf course began four years ago and is now fully operational along with the Golf Academy, the Pasarells’ idea of establishing Royal Isabela dates back to 1989, when Charlie Pasarell first set eyes on the different tracts of land along the Isabela coastline that today make up Royal Isabela. His vision at the time was to make Royal Isabela “the Pebble Beach of the Caribbean.”
Plans are to have five hotels, three golf courses—one is already finished— and have villas, “casitas” and lots for home estates.
Due to problems with their original partners in 1993, it was not until 2000 that the Pasarell brothers fully acquired and reactivated their project. Charlie saw the investment potential and encouraged Stanley to get involved. Their first order of business was to set up a nursery that would supply the trees for a reforestation program as well as most of the grass needed for the golf course.
Royal Isabela enjoys a prime location within the 1,800-acre Costa Isabela community, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and featuring an oceanfront stretch of more than 3.5 miles. Costa Isabela includes nearly five miles of the Guajataca River basin.
Royal Isabela is located approximately 10 miles away from Aguadilla’s Rafael Hernández International Airport and 73 miles away from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.
The project’s site sits on beachfront and cliffside land, ranging in elevation from 150 to 350 feet above sea level—a spectacular setting for one of the most dramatic golf courses ever built on this side of the Atlantic.
AN EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE GOLF COMMUNITY
In its first phase, Royal Isabela will be much more than just a breathtaking world-class golf course; it will be an exclusive and completely private golf-resort community with a golf academy, pro shop, 34 two-bedroom residential villas, ocean-view lots for home estates, a hotel with 20 one-bedroom “casitas” guestrooms with 24-hour room service and concierge, spa and health club facilities, fine-dining restaurant, lounge, bar, tennis courts, swimming pool and areas for hiking, biking and water sports.
The pro shop just opened, while the rest of the facilities under construction will be ready before Royal Isabela’s official grand opening next summer.
The entire Costa Isabela project, of which Royal Isabela is part of, will be developed in five phases over a 30-year period. The project’s master plan already has permits for the development of up to five hotels, five golf courses and various residential developments at the 1,800- acre site.
Once the first phase of Royal Isabela is completed, the project will provide employment for 350 full-time workers. It currently provides 150 direct jobs.
“Part of our vision for Royal Isabela is to create an exclusive private golf community that is warm and welcoming, yet also delivers a level of quality that befits the private club lifestyle with concierge-type service. We want Royal Isabela to be both a treasured family escape and a source of pride for our members and residents as well as a natural, gracious and luxurious haven for guests,” Costa Isabela Partners Inc. President Stanley Pasarell told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. “This is a very exclusive golf club. There’s nothing like it in Puerto Rico and in many parts of the world.”
Membership at Royal Isabela, which is by invitation only, will be limited to ensure tee times are not necessary, Charlie Pasarell said, adding membership at golf resort will range between 250 and 300 members per 18 holes to ensure a personal and intimate atmosphere. The majority of club members are non-local residents.
Stanley, the younger of the Pasarell brothers, said their vision for Royal Isabela involves caring for the stunning property in perpetuity.
“It is our heartfelt intent to restore, preserve, conserve and maintain this land at Royal Isabela as a legacy for future generations,” Stanley Pasarell said.
Establishing a vibrant community is at the heart of the Royal Isabela vision. The Pasarell brothers want the experience of members, residents and guests at the private golf community to be one of “coming home” rather than “being away.”
“Royal Isabela is a community that shares a love for the outdoors, social interaction, private-club traditions and a sporting lifestyle,” Charlie Pasarell said. “No event better demonstrates this than our second annual Royal Isabela Invitational Golf Tournament, starting tomorrow and running through Sunday. It is three days devoted to great golf, friendly competition and casual gatherings. We also come together to uphold the rituals we believe in, like golf’s etiquette and decorum.”
The tournament format will be two-man best ball net match play, featuring four fl ights, each with six two-player teams. Teams will be randomly selected based on each player’s current handicap index.
Each team will play five nine-hole matches, one match against each team in the fl ight. The tournament also will include events such as the “Whiskey Tee Challenge,” “Horse Race” and “Drunken Asopao Scramble.”
REAL-ESTATE DEVELOPMENTS AND HOSPITALITY FACILITIES
The Royal Isabela residential community will consist of one-totwo- acre home sites all close to the golf course with ocean views, and two-bedroom villas, adjacent to all amenities.
The first phase of the real-estate development consists of 34 two-bedroom Fairway Villas—all with great views—and family home sites that are perched amid the golf course with magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Each Fairway Villa will provide over 3,300 square feet of living and terrace space and will feature two master suites, a covered terrace and a plunge pool. These will be priced at approximately $1 million each.
The home sites will overlook the golf course and the Atlantic Ocean and range from approximately one to two acres. Prices will be in the $2 million range, depending on lot size and location.
The resort will feature La Casa Restaurant, a fine-dining venue within the clubhouse “village” area that will feature farm-to-table initiatives. Restaurant consultants David Pasternack—a James Beard award-winning chef and owner of New York City’s Esca, whose specialty is fish—and John Sergi of Sergi Hospitality & Culinary Strategy are directing the vision and menu planning for the intimate establishment.
Future guests at Royal Isabela will have their choice of 20 beautifully designed one-bedroom “Casitas” guestrooms with over 1,300 square feet of expansive indoor and outdoor space, and ocean views. The “Casitas” will be in close proximity to the golf course and other amenities, such as a spa and health club, tennis courts and water sports in addition to La Casa Restaurant. Each unit will have a country feel with intimate components such as a privateplunge pool and shower room.
The Club at Royal Isabela will be comprised of the Lodge (with the 20 “Casitas” guestrooms), La Casa Restaurant, a library lounge, the Croquet Bar, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a pro shop and a spa & fitness center.
In addition to the 18-hole golf course in operation, Royal Isabela also includes an organic farm, a nursery (where indigenous plants for landscaping are grown), beach access and hiking & biking trails.
TOP-NOTCH MANAGEMENT TEAM AND PROJECT CONSULTANTS
A project is as good as the management team and the group of consultants behind it, and Royal Isabela is no exception.
In addition to the Pasarell brothers, Royal Isabela’s onsite management team features a group of talented experts that includes Joaquín López Cámera as general manager, Carlos Calderón as head engineer, Tere del Valle as architect, Dean Vande Hei as golf superintendent, Miguel Suárez as head golf professional, Mariel Prieto as marketing & real estate director, María Elena Matos as nursery& landscape director, José Rodríguez as landscape maintenance director and Rafael Perdomo as comptroller.
“Miguel [Suárez] is one of the most respected golf professionals in Puerto Rico, both as a player and a teacher,” Charlie Pasarell said. “He not only supervises golf operations at Royal Isabela, but also continues to compete at an international level, as well as overseeing Puerto Rico’s national junior golf program.”
Following college, Suárez played five years in tournaments around the world, returning to Puerto Rico to pursue his passion for instruction and the golf business. He has been a staff professional at the Westin Río Mar Golf Resort, served as coach of the Puerto Rico men’s and women’s national teams and is president of the Puerto Rico Junior Golf League, which he created.
Suárez also is a member of the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation, the Tour de Las Américas and the PGA of Puerto Rico.
In 2008, Vande Hei joined the Royal Isabela team to oversee the completion of turf growth throughout the golf course, remaining in charge of course maintenance. He has played a significant role in developing and implementing conservation initiatives within the maintenance program, which include water conservation (using only 30% of the annual allotment) and the strict use of organic-based pesticides and fertilizers when necessary.
The top-rated list of consultants working on Royal Isabela includes Hart Howerton, an internationally recognized team of planners, architects, landscape architects and interior designers working in more than 30 countries. The firm’s sustainable-environment projects include Santa Lucía Preserve in Carmel, California and Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina.
The well-regarded Puerto Rican firm of Jorge Rosselló Interior Designers and Space Planners is also involved in the project. The firm has been designing spaces for luxury hotels, fine restaurants and upscale homes in North America, the Caribbean and Central America.
John Sergi, president of New Yorkbased Sergi Hospitality & Culinary Strategy, learned his love for food from his Italian grandmother. For over 20 years, he has worked on many iconic projects such as the New York Mets’ Citi Field; the United States Tennis Association’s U.S. Open; the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dodger Stadium; the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.; the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Fla.; and the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells, Calif.
Joined by powerhouse restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianish, Dave Pasternack runs the award-winning Esca Restaurant in New York City. Recognized in 2004 as the “Best Chef: New York City” by the James Beard Foundation, Pasternack is renowned for his fish cookery and brings vast experience in organic farm initiatives to the project.
Sandcastle Group President Denise Adams is known throughout the hospitality industry as one of the foremost experts in developing and executing successful membership programs for exclusive golf and country clubs. Adams has been instrumental in planning and implementing club development and membership sales programs for more than 80 clubs worldwide, ranging from Beijing to Chicago.
Other consultants for the project include Dana Communications as marketing consultants, Hunter Public Relations as public relations consultants, Rich Cortese as hospitality consultant, attorney Francisco García from Goldman Antonetti as legal consultant and renowned golf photographer and Golf Magazine Top 100 panelist Joan Dost.
STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENT DRIVES PROJECT’S QUEST FOR LEED CERTIFICATION
There is no shortage of commitment on the part of the Pasarell brothers when it comes to their genuine respect for the environment at Royal Isabela. Their dedication to treating the land with respect is evidenced by their attention to environmentally sensitive practices.
“Our commitment to the environment at Royal Isabela is genuine and comprehensive,” Charlie Pasarell said. “We will see the project to completion and beyond. There is no end to Royal Isabela for us. We live this project. Royal Isabela will be our home and our legacy.”
Every aspect of the project, from their land- and energy-conservation efforts to the farming and nursery operations, is meant to protect the land that is very special to them. The Pasarell brothers plan to seek a Leadership in Energy &Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures.
“Puerto Rico has been good to us,” Stanley Pasarell said. “Our commitment to Royal Isabela is born out of our desire to create a model project other developers can follow.”
High standards for preservation and sustainability contribute to the Pasarells’ sense of environmental stewardship, as seen in their use of indigenous plants grown at the project’s own nursery and organic farm, which will support the restaurant’s farm-to-table initiatives as well as on their property along the Guajataca River.
More than 20,000 native trees and plants have been started at the nursery, of which 4,000 trees have already been planted throughout the property. Some 40 acres of turf grass was grown on the property specifically for the golf course and surrounding landscape. Other than putting-green surfaces, every blade of grass and plant within Royal Isabela was grown on the property, Stanley noted, assuring there has been minimal impact to the surrounding land.
Additionally, solar panels will be used extensively throughout Royal Isabela, and the tropical sun will help power golf carts as well as the Lodge Casitas. Water conservation is in full force as rainwater is captured and used, while gray water is reused for irrigation purposes. The project has its own sewage treatment plant.
Throughout the golf-course construction process, the vast majority of the work was done by hand, reflecting the brothers’ desire to disturb the land as lightly as possible. Lakes and ponds found naturally on the property were enhanced, always maintaining the property’s natural water fl ow and drainage, Charlie Pasarell said.
“Royal Isabela is clearly a community that, while providing its residents with an incomparable lifestyle, works in harmony with the environment and has been created with the enduring value of preserving the natural beauty and history of the land,” Stanley Pasarell added.
Conservation efforts at Royal Isabela also include large tracts of green space and beach acreage set aside for the enjoyment of members and guests.
The El Pastillo Conservation Trust is one of various preservation initiatives of the Costa Isabela community. The trust will foster the education, security, restoration and conservation of the flora and fauna of the property.
“There will be a donation from the revenue generated on the property that will go to the trust and all residents and members will contribute to develop it,” Stanley Pasarell explained.
GOLF LINKS FOUND, NOT BUILT OR DESIGNED
The golf links at Royal Isabela were not “built” or “designed” as much as they were searched out and found within their natural settings.
The “search party” consisted of the Pasarell brothers and noted golf-course designer David Pfaff, the original design associate of legendary designer Pete Dye. The trio collaborated on the golf course’s layout, which is unlike anything anyone has ever done in this part of the world.
“The golf-course design was not about moving the earth, but how the earth moved us to tread gently,” Charlie Pasarell said. “We are not the creators of Royal Isabela, we are its caretakers.”
“This is the best golf course for the land we found,” Stanley Pasarell added. “It evolved from the ideas and experiences my brother and I have had playing Scottish and Irish courses. We kept telling David [Pfaff] we wanted to do all these things and have all these concepts. To his credit, David stuck with us and we came up with a great result.”
Charlie Pasarell added, “The land showed us where every green, tee placement, landing area and bunker should be. This approach inherently makes the Golf Links at Royal Isabela as distinctly memorable and delightful as the rolling dunes and ocean views themselves.”
There may be no better example of this than the sixth hole, which may be the only hole in the world that plays as either a par 4 or a par 5, with two completely different fairways and greens. The hole begins from the same teeing ground and shares the same landing area. From there, the fairway splits uphill to a par 4 on the right, or along a canyon to a par 5 on the left.
As they followed the landscape at Royal Isabela, Pfaff and the Pasarell brothers found natural plateaus for wide fairways and large greens, hugging the cliff along the way. But they also implemented numerous vertical sod-face bunkers, which add a classic Scottish fl air to what is otherwise a warm, tropical paradise. Indeed, Stanley noted the Royal Isabela property was used for the filming of the 2009 film “A Perfect Getaway,” which was set in Hawaii.
Each hole of the course provides for six sets of tees. The greens use Mini Verde (Ultra Dwarf Bermuda) grass, while the fairways use 419 Bermuda. Rough areas use Zoysia, Native Bermuda, Pangola, Estrella, Guinea, Coquí and numerous other native grasses.
“Tropical Scotland,” Stanley Pasarell said. “If the [British] Open ever leaves the British Isles, this could be the venue.”
Charlie and Stanley Pasarell: From tennis pros to golf lovers
Of the many diverse chapters in their careers, Puerto Rican brothers enjoying latest as golf-resort developers
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, brothers Charlie and Stanley Pasarell have enjoyed many diverse chapters in their careers—from playing championship tennis to developing world-class properties to running successful companies.
Members of a well-respected local family, the Pasarell brothers are descendants of Dr. Manuel Zeno Gandía, a celebrated Puerto Rican literary figure who penned “La Charca” (The Pond) in 1894, considered by many to be the first Puerto Rican novel.
The brothers bring their love for Puerto Rican culture and hospitality, as well as their great passion for golf, to the Royal Isabela project.
FAMED PAST IN TENNIS
Born in San Juan, Charlie Pasarell is a celebrated Puerto Rican tennis player, an entrepreneur and respected leader in the sport. Representing the United States as a player, he has served as tournament representative for the Americas on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Board of Directors since 1990.
The oldest of the two Pasarell brothers, Charlie attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he won the NCAA men’s singles title in 1966—one year after his friend and teammate, the late Arthur Ashe, did the same.
Charlie reached No.1 in the rankings of American men’s players in 1967. He competed in major tournaments from 1960 through 1979, with his most successful showings coming in doubles. He reached the finals in men’s doubles at the U.S. Open, the French Open and the Australian Open. He was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1974.
In 1969 at Wimbledon, Pasarell played Pancho Gonzáles of the U.S. in what was, until 2010, the longest match in Wimbledon history. The then 41-year-old Gonzáles defeated a 25-year-old Pasarell 22- 24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3 and 11-9 after a battle that lasted five hours and 12 minutes.
Charlie Pasarell currently is the tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. and a commentator for The Tennis Channel. He is a member of the Intercollegiate Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame and the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
Also a celebrated world-class tennis player in his own right, younger brother Stanley competed in local, national and international tournaments. One of his greatest achievements was to represent the island at the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico City, Mexico.
Stanley won three silver medals at the 1966 Caribbean and Central American Games, held in San Juan. Other titles include the U.S. National Junior Doubles, Don Q Open (twice), Hawaii State, Puerto Rico State and Palencia (Spain).
He received honors from the Stanford University Tennis Team, Hawaii Leis (World Team Tennis), P.R. Tennis Hall of Fame, U.S. Open Qualifier (5 times) and U.S. Jr. Davis Cup.
PASSIONATE ABOUT GOLF
Long retired from professional tennis, the Pasarells now share a passion for golf, something also shared by other family members.
“Golf is something we have shared as a family for many years,” Charlie Pasarell said. “Together and individually, we have played at 18 of the best golf courses in the world and have seen 50 of the 100 best in the world, including the famed Scottish and Irish courses.”
Having seen and played at the world’s top golf venues, the Pasarell brothers want to position Royal Isabela among the elite clubs and golf courses in the world.
Issued : Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:00 AM
Major development out west
Edition: December 2, 2010 | Volume: 38 | No: 47
The western portion of Puerto Rico has for many years complained about the lack of both public and private investment necessary to promote the economic development of the region. Fortunately, the 2010 Central American & Caribbean Games held last summer in Mayagüez resulted in a much-needed influx of capital that was used mainly to improve the infrastructure of the area. The funding also fed other important projects, including a new Olympic natatorium at the Mayagüez campus of the University of Puerto Rico and substantial renovations to the Isidoro García Stadium, as featured in CB July 15.
Our front-page story this week spotlights Royal Isabela, a multiphase real-estate, hotel and golf project that is expected to be one of the biggest resorts in Puerto Rico’s history. The brainchild of brothers Charlie and Stanley Pasarell, tennis legends of the 1960s turned realestate developers and golf enthusiasts, Royal Isabela’s first-phase investment of $100 million includes a private golf course that is now fully operational, as well as residential villas, ocean-view lots for single-family homes and a hotel.
This massive project will be developed in five phases over a 30-year period. As it currently stands, Royal Isabela already has permits to accommodate five hotels, five golf courses and various residential developments along a 3.5-mile oceanfront stretch within the Costa Isabela community in the municipality of Isabela. The project is on 426 acres which when fully developed will be the largest resort in the Caribbean.
In addition to the world-class golf course, the first phase of this project would include a golf academy, 34 two-bedroom residential villas, one- to two-acre ocean-view lots for the construction of single-family homes and a hotel with 20 one-bedroom guestrooms. Among the hotel amenities, guests will be able to enjoy 24-hour room and concierge service, spa and health-club facilities, a fine-dining restaurant, tennis courts and a swimming pool, as well as hiking, biking and water sports along the breathtaking Isabela coastline. Once this first phase is completed, Royal Isabela will create some 350 jobs.
The construction of major tourism and residential projects like Royal Isabela remains one of the few realistic options available for creating the number of jobs the island needs to pull out of its prolonged recession. Over the next decade, Royal Isabela, together with the construction and redevelopment of another major project, the former Dorado Beach Hotel and the entire master plan for the Dorado area, will bring more than 1,000 direct jobs during its construction phase and, once completed, will provide hundreds of much-needed permanent jobs along the north-central and northwestern coast of the island.
Puerto Rico’s natural attributes, proximity to the U.S. mainland, near-perfect weather and pristine beaches give us a competitive advantage over other destinations. Royal Isabela is the kind of project that is essential to the continued development of the luxury category, a segment of the tourism industry in which Puerto Rico competes effectively. Recent openings of luxury hotels like the W Retreat & Spa in Vieques in June, the St. Regis Bahía Beach Hotel in November and the Sheraton Hotel at the Convention Center enable Puerto Rico to continue catering to affl uent residents of the U.S. northeastern seaboard, who already constitute 80% of all travelers to the island.
Large-scale tourism projects such as the one slated for development in Royal Isabela are the kinds of facilities that outside investors cannot simply dismantle and move on to other locations depending on the turning of economic cycles. Notwithstanding the systematic and irrational opposition of groups that traditionally use the environment to advance their particular agendas, the fact remains that tourism projects are one of the few remaining alternatives for stimulating the construction sector and getting Puerto Rico on the road to economic recovery and growth.