Here I am in Loreto

by francine Hardaway on June 18, 2005

Here I am in Loreto Bay, Mexico, taking a look at the dream of an entrepreneur. I�m here partly on a vacation and partly on a fact-finding trip, because in the past year a place I always thought was a third world country with an unstable currency has suddenly become one of the hottest places to invest in real estate.

I used to go to Rocky Point thirty years ago, when there wasn�t even any electricity there. It was fun to stay in my friend Bob Smith�s house, which he couldn�t really OWN, he could just lease, because of the vagaries of the Mexican government. I think he lost the house in an election that threw out foreign investors.

Au contraire, for every Mexican dying in the desert to get across the border for a job, there seems to be a Baby Boomer looking for a home by the water and the attitude of manana. And the Mexican government is very anxious to have us.

The Village at Loreto Bay is being built to cater to those Boomers. Jim Grogran,the visionary entrepreneur, acquired from the Mexican tourist agency Fonatur a piece of land directly on the water at the Bay of Loreto, between two already-built hotels and a golf course. He is building a 6000 home sustainable development with a spa and a golf course on this land, and he has already sold 400 homes (the hardest ones to sell). He has a lottery going to select lots; you have to pay $5000 get into his preferred buyer program. This despite the fact that the homes start at about $300,000 and very little financing was available until this weekend, when GE Capital came into the deal.

Grogan�s tag line for this development is �Live fully. Tread lightly.� The area around the Bay is a marine reserve, into which commercial fishing boats can�t venture. We went out on a boat ride this morning and our captain (who moved here from Mexico City, bought the boat and now also has a real estate company) told us that no one in Loreto, which was the original capital of California, and the first of a series of Jesuit missions from Mexico to San Francisco, begs for food because there are so many fish.

Grogan is going to build on only 25% of the land, leaving the rest for open space. He envisions an active lifestyle, in accord with the surroundings, He wants his community to be a model of sustainable development throughout the world. He is, however, bringing a hospital into the town of Loreto, five minutes away, so his north American residents will have quality medical care. If you buy in Loreto Bay, you won�t be roughing it.

But he is not building parking lots or parking garages with the homes; the entire community is designed to be a pedestrian environment. If you drive down from San Diego (fifteen hours), you�ll be parking your RV at the gate. He�s doing organic farming and planting around the homes, with a plant list restricted to what normally grows here.

The homes are built of earth brick and cinderblock in traditional styles and colors that match those of the town, and even have optional cupolas at the top to circulate the air. They have internal courtyards and painted ceramic sinks. And yet the whole community has wireless Internet (you know I�ve already scoped it out).

The old town of Loreto is itself very beautiful, although there�s no denying it�s in the desert. I suspect that the missionaries who created it imported a lot of Spanish plants. It has long been a tourist destination, but not for high-end tourists, who have all adopted Cabo san Lucas. All the better.

Our captain told us that pirates used to hide out in the next harbor over from Loreto, a town called Puerto Escondido (Hidden Harbor). As a result, many of the residents of Puerto Escondido still have names like Davis, Cunningham, and Morgan. This is not exactly the center of the universe even today.

Because I have been watching developers realize big dreams for forty years, I don�t think Jim Grogan is crazy for trying to build a natural, environmentally appropriate community in a third world country. I think he will get it done. If you want a place in the lottery, I can get you one ?

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