In the Bay of Kotor, a meandering bay in southwestern Montenegro, craggy mountains rise dramatically from the Adriatic, their rugged backs sheltering the narrow channel where stone villages meet the cobalt sea. The bay’s tranquil beauty belies a turbulent past. Since the beginning of the 19th century the strategic port has been annexed by Italy, France and the Austrian Empire. More recently, it was the site of a former Yugoslav naval facility. Today you are more likely to spot a Benetti than a Destroyer. In the coastal city of Tivat, a marina development called Porto Montenegro is specifically designed to accommodate the world’s growing collection of superyachts.
Bay of Kotor
“The number of superyachts floating in the Mediterranean has increased by 50% in the last 10 years”, says Danilo Kalezic, Public Relations manager at Porto Montenegro. This has led to a shortage of berths, he says, especially as today’s boat buyers are opting for ever-larger models. “Yachts are getting bigger and bigger and people are complaining that they can’t find proper berths for them”, says Peter Munk, a chief investor at Porto Montenegro. In Tivat, he says, this is not a problem. “It used to cater to warships”.
Few marinas in the world can accommodate vessels over 30 meters (98 feet) in length, let alone offer onshore provisions and crew services to complement the standards of the facilities found onboard. Porto Montenegro aims to redress this issue by becoming the Mediterranean’s most comprehensive nautical facility. The homeport for yachts can accommodate up to 850 boats, including 311 superyachts.
However, the project not only accommodates boats. Developers are also creating a coastal community of waterfront residences, a hotel, shops and amenities that offers clients a comprehensive waterfront lifestyle. “Most of the marinas in the Mediterranean rely on the infrastructure of the nearby city/town”, says Kalezic. “The advantage of building a village from scratch is that you can tailor it to the needs of your marina residents”.
The project joins a new wave of waterfront enclaves around the world, from Europe to the Caribbean to Asia, where developers are creating mixed-use marinas catering to wealthy boat owners who want properties in coastal locations.
Porto Montenegro Residence interior
So far, developers at Porto Montenegro have built 229 residential units, a 5-Star hotel, retail village and sports club. The second phase, currently under construction, includes a second luxury hotel, The Regent Porto Montenegro, and the Regent Pool Club Residences, a condominium building with 64 units, scheduled for completion in summer 2017. The residences range from one- to three-bedrooms of 796 to 3,702 sq. ft. in size. Prices start from $459,000 and range up to $4.1 million and buyers have access to hotel services and amenities. There is also an optional rental program whereby owners retain 85% of all generated revenues.
Buyers at the Regent Pool Club Residences are not guaranteed a berth at the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club, but if a buyer is interested in purchasing an apartment unit and a berth lease they will receive a preferential rate on the berth (provided that latter is of equal or greater value). Leases range from 10 to 30 years.
Despite its natural beauty and central European location, Montenegro has only recently experienced an upsurge in the popularity it enjoyed during the 1950s and 60s when it was a haven for film stars such as Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Kirk Douglas. As the country re-establishes itself, Porto Montenegro aims to compete with the more established European destinations such as Antibes and Portofino, whose yachting facilities are already fully saturated.
Montenegro’s location east of Italy makes for great sailing along the 295 kilometer Adriatic coastline, says Kalezic. “Within a 1.5-hour sail across the UNESCO protected Boka Bay, clients will be able to sail north through the Croatian archipelago to Venice, or down to Corfu visiting the Ionian islands”.
Another country that aims to compete with the more established Mediterranean hotspots, is Cyprus. A new mixed-use waterfront resort in Potima Bay, Kissonerga called Paphos was recently announced, with capacity for 1,000 berths, while Limassol Marina, a luxury development near the Old Town in Limassol is currently nearing completion.
Limassol Marina features 236 residences, now over 90% sold, as well as a range of amenities and facilities, including restaurants, boutiques and a spa. Some villas are built on reclaimed islands with private boat berths included in the purchase. The Neso Villa, one of the largest, is located on a private island and includes two yacht berths and a 13,132 sq. ft. residence accessed by a private bridge.
Sophia Paraskeva, marketing manager for the site, says a feasibility study for the project showed a lack of berths in Mediterranean locations, but she says, “Even non-boat owners want the lifestyle of waterfront communities”.
Limassol Marina is located within an easy sail of picturesque and popular coastal resorts in Cyprus, a country that has one of the mildest winters in the Mediterranean (average temperatures of 14 degrees from November to February). Cruising destinations further afield include Greece and the Greek Islands, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Turkey, as well as the Suez Canal crossing to the Red Sea.
In the Middle East, Qatar, Dubai and Bahrain are all receiving strong government-backed investment into waterfront development. In Bahrain, residential marina projects currently in the pipelines include Reef Island, a $1.5 billion reclaimed island development that includes plans for luxury residences, a five-star hotel, shopping mall, medical center, marina and yacht club, and Durrat Marina, a 6,458,346 sq. ft., $1.3 billion project that includes sea-facing villas, apartments, a marina and yacht club, and a promenade with cafes and retail outlets.
Demand for mixed-use marinas is rising in Asia too. A recent study by the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association reports that China is expected to have Asia’s largest yacht ownership within five years, surpassing Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Already there is a shortage of large-berth marinas to accommodate the growing demand.
China has built a number of new marinas on Hainan Island, a popular winter getaway for wealthy northerners, but until recently, most were built as an addendum to real estate projects, says Godfrey Zwygart, General Manager of Operations at Sanya Serenity Marina. Now, he says, mixed-use marinas are on the rise, projects such as Clearwater Bay offers 780 berths, residential components and a range of leisure and lifestyle facilities, and Shimei Bay, a mixed use project that includes luxury hotels, residences and retail components, as well as a marina that offers 213 wet berths, 121 dry berths and a ‘mega berth’ that can accommodate yachts up to 50 meters (164 feet), the largest length of berths currently in China.
Mixed-use marinas are also being constructed in Haikou, on the north of Hainan, as well as other parts of the Chinese mainland, including Xiamen, Qingdao, Tianjin and Dalian. “There are so many other marinas under construction right now, I can’t keep track”, Zwygart says.
Southeast Asia’s largest mixed-use marina, Melaka Gateway, is currently in development in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula. Scheduled for completion in 2025, the USD 10 billion project from KAJ Development Sdn Bhd will feature a 1,000-berth marina and a range of residential, commercial, cultural and lifestyle elements, including an 80-storey tower housing a hotel and residences. The reclaimed area offers 15 kilometres of seafront land and there will also be a number of waterfront villas with private boat slips.
In the Caribbean, known for its strong winter sailing trade, there are a number of highly ranked superyacht marinas, but few of them offer integrated residential components. This may soon change, however, as developers attempt to address the issue.
At the Albany, a high-end resort in the Bahamas, amenities include an Earnie Els golf course and a deep-water, 71-slip marina with floating concrete docks that can accommodate boats from 50 feet in length up to 300-foot megayachts. Berths are sold, primarily to property owners, with prices starting from USD 12,000. Properties range from land plots to colonial-style villas and condominiums designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, where prices range from USD 3 million to USD 25 million.
In St. Lucia, a project called The Landings combines a beachfront resort with spacious designer suites, a private marina and a 7,000 sq. ft. spa. Moorings are available to residents only, and the properties, which range from one to three bedrooms, are priced from USD 400,000. In St Kitts, a residential resort named Christophe Harbour recently opened a 300-berth marina where berths are sold on a freehold basis. Prices start from USD 1.5 million and qualify buyers for the Citizenship by Investment program. Developers are also building a Park Hyatt Hotel, villas and fractional ownership units that range from USD 450,000 to around USD 4 million.
As the international appetite for superyachts grows, developers appear to be catering, not only to the demand for larger boat berths, but to boat owners who desire a seamless transition between land and sea. This is what Tino Zervudachi, designer for Port Montenegro had in mind when he created a low-rise waterfront community. “The interior and exterior design incorporates the magic of the existing destination: the way the light bounces off the water, the distinct interconnection between sea and land…we want the transition from bay to land, deck to promenade, yachts to residences to be seamless and stylish”, he says.
Today’s boat owners want to disembark at a place where their luxurious nautical adventure can continue uninterrupted. As Tony Browne, Marina Director at Porto Montenegro puts it: “We have created
a visionary marina and homeport that offers land-based services, facilities
and amenities that mirror the standards that guests would expect to receive on-board”.