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Israeli group buys 15% of Havana real-estate project
CubaNews / June 2002

By Larry Luxner

Habas H.Z. Investments, owned by Israeli investors Baruch and Herzl Habas, has acquired 15% of the Miramar Trade Center in Havana -- a project its proponents have billed as Cuba's first "intelligent office building complex."

Tel Aviv newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported May 23 that Habas paid $30 million for its stake in the project, scheduled for completion in 2006.

The $200 million MTC is the brainchild of Inmobiliaria Monte Barreto S.A., which is registered in Panama, but is in fact connected to Grupo BM, an Israeli entity headed by former Mossad spy chief Rafi Eitan. In the late 90s, BM reportedly invested at least $20 million in citrus operations in Jagüey Grande, in the Cuban province of Matanzas.

Inmobiliaria Monte Barreto's chairman is Enrique Rottenberg, an Argentine Jew living in Cuba. Rottenberg declined to be interviewed by CubaNews, saying it was not in his interest for the company's activities to be publicized.

However, the Miramar Trade Center is hard to miss, given its location along 3ra Avenida between Calles 70 and 80, which puts it practically within walking distance of some of Miramar's most important hotels: the Meliá Habana, the Neptuno, the Tritón, the Panorama, the Comodoro and the Novotel Miramar. In addition, dozens of state-run trading companies, foreign firms, the International Conference Center, many embassies and the Ministry for Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation are located nearby.

According to a glossy pamphlet provided by Rottenberg, the MTC will consist of 18 office buildings with a total rentable area of 180,000 square meters (1.94 million square feet), and 70,000 square meters of covered parking facilities for more than 2,000 cars.

The complex is to be built in five phases, according to the pamphlet. Phase I consists of two six-story buildings, one known as the Edificio Jerusalén and the other called the Edificio Habana. Completed in January 2000, these buildings are already fully occupied and have 27,000 square meters of construction and covered parking for 200 cars.

The Edificio Jerusalén, adorned with Israeli art in the hallways of the first floor, is about as modern as any office building in Havana, and on par with what a visitor might find along Brickell Avenue in Miami.

To further attract investors, Monte Barreto S.A. promises to offer the latest in technology, including "transmission of voice and data through a system of Category 5 structured cables, ideal for the connection of power phone and computer networks; central climatization by a smart design of variable air volume that makes it very comfortable and efficient; fire detection and detection of intruders through a smart switchboard, and electrical system that guarantees a stable supply of energy."

Work on Phase II, which contains four buildings, began in September 2000. Two of these buildings will have five floors, with views of Quinta Avenida, while two other buildings with six floors will offer views of 3ra Avenida. From the third floor, the buildings can offer areas of between 50 and 7,000 square meters per floor.

Phases III, IV and V -- each containing four buildings -- will begin in 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively, with each phase requiring two and a half years to complete construction.

Among MTC's advantages, says the pamphlet, are "a privileged position in the center of Miramar with fast access to the main urban roads; the possibility to rent only the necessary space for your office requirements, and design flexibility to create and modify your office on request by using removable light wall panels."

The project was designed by Cuba's Empresa de Diseño de La Habana, in conjunction with ZP International Inc., whose credits include Toronto's Eaton Center and London's Canary Wharf.

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