For more than five years, the unfinished condominium project Las Olas has been an eyesore in Guiones, but that is about to change, as the property has finally been sold and orders have been given to tear the structure down.
The new owners of Las Olas are the owners of Harmony Hotel, John Johnson III and his wife, Susan Johnson. At the same time, the couple also purchased three other neighboring properties across from the Harmony Hotel near the main entrance to Guiones beach, including Hotel Casa Tucan and a corner lot next to Guiones Plaza commercial center.
“For the last three years, the Harmony Hotel has been booked a year in advance during high season. We just had to grow and with the way Guiones real estate prices are moving, we saw this as probably our last opportunity to do something at this scale,” Johnson related.
Johnson did not wish to disclose the price of the purchases and said that they are still determining their plan for the properties, but he did confirm that they do intend to build more hotel rooms. “We also want to be as mindful as possible to how it’s impacting the community,” he added.
Most of the property purchases were made through third parties. “I like to think that Susan and I have a good reputation as community-minded people, both here in Nosara and other places where we spend our time, but I’d also have to acknowledge that we are thought of by some as having money to throw away, and that’s just not the case,” Johnson explained. “We maintained our privacy in these purchases, not because we thought these specific sellers would change their prices if they knew the Harmony Hotel was buying but because it’s just better practice to be private until deals are concluded. This is a small community and the hotel is, last time I checked, the largest employer here. It would be easy for that dynamic to throw a wrench in any deal.”
Originally Las Olas was planned to be a 24-unit condo project, but Ohio investor Rich Johnson halted construction in November of 2007, with only three of the luxury units sold, and began looking for a buyer or equity investor.
The structures were in fair shape, according to Reese Langston, the trustee of the property, but they were suffering from exposure to the elements. The earthquake on September 5th caused some damage to a few of the metal beams and external coverings, but the real problem revealed by the quake was that the buildings had too much flex in them.
“This is fine for a parking garage,” Langston explained, “but as finished condos, any major earthquake would have caused a lot of bothersome superficial damage, such as cracked drywall, broken pipes, cracked tile, etc. The cost to fix this flex was too high to justify keeping the buildings.”
Since the existing Las Olas structures do not figure into the new owners’ plan for the properties anyway, orders have been given to tear the existing buildings down and restore the site to raw land. The group contracted to do the demolition work is Adol S.A., a Costa Rican company that specializes in demolition work at the national and international level since 1997. Langston said demolition is scheduled to be completed in mid-April.
“Site safety is of utmost importance, and the property will be locked down while the demolition is in progress. It is extremely dangerous and unwise for anyone to attempt to access the site,” Langston advised. He recommended that no one approach or park near the fence around the property.
According to Langston, as many materials as possible will be salvaged and donated, and cement, including the building foundations, will be broken into small pieces for future use as road base. Questions or concerns about the demolition work can be directed to: [email protected].