Monaco's €2bn plan to stay relevant sees coastline grow
FIRST-TIME visitors to the Monte Carlo Casino for next weekend's Grand Prix may not find the view they're expecting.
In the place of sea vistas are screens shielding the coast; in the water, dredgers are strategically placed, like warships.
"Monaco's yachts don't look as glamorous these days," one visitor jokes.
The activity is the first step toward creating new, ritzy Riviera housing on land that is currently underwater. Since 2016, the principality's government has been pouring thousands of tons of Sicilian sand into the shallow harbour at a cost of €2bn.
By 2025, the 15-acre neighbourhood, called Anse du Portier or Portier Cove, will increase the principality's size by 3pc and feature 120 luxury apartments, 10 villas, a seaside promenade and a port - all on Monaco's last remaining sliver of untouched shore.
It's part of a plan to rescue the tax haven from its housing shortage, which has helped the city-state claim the world's most expensive residential real estate.
The development follows a similar land reclamation effort in the 1970s, when Prince Rainier III built the industrial Fontvieille neighbourhood on nearly 10 acres that contained only Mediterranean water. Unlike Paris or New York, Monaco refuses to tear down old buildings to make space for taller, newer ones. It can expand in only one way: over the water.
According to Jean-Luc Nguyen, director of the government's offshore expansion project, the goal of Portier Cove is to "provide top luxury residences for people who want to settle in Monaco", since most of the principality's housing stock is aesthetically stuck in the 1970s. The deep-pocketed companies and residents who reap the rewards of the tax haven are also the primary benefactors for the local economy, and are critical to Monaco's growth.
The new neighbourhood will help lure billionaires with a handful of state-of-the-art amenities (sea-powered heating, solar-powered electric) plus expansive, seaside views. The villas - which stretch up to 16,000 sq ft - are priced 30pc higher than Monaco's average homes.
For some, the project has a reverse Robin Hood effect, stealing land from the sea in a style similar to Dubai's 'The World'.
Monaco's government argues that this project is less about becoming a superlative city like Dubai, and more about Prince Albert's plan of transitioning Monaco into a carbon-neutral country by 2050.
The district will follow a pedestrian-only design, with sustainable features like e-bike stations and rainwater recovery systems. Almost half of the energy consumption will derive from photovoltaic solar energy panels and thermal pumps, which will use the temperature of the sea to control heating and cooling systems, as well as power 80pc of the street lighting.
If all goes according to plan, the district will generate housing revenues of about €3.5bn.
"Right now, we are reaching a sensitive point as to how much construction people can stand in the principality," Mr Nguyen said, "but the new Portier Cove district will benefit everyone in Monaco." (Bloomberg)