Loreto Bay resort emerges from economic downturn (photos)

Indeed, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. What emerged, thanks in part to social media, was one of the most well-organized, powerful homeowner organizations in the world.

Baja News
My wife, Loni, returns from a walk to Casa del Lagarto Azul. We bought in 2006. 6 years later the development is finally taking shape. What an adventure!
Baja News
My wife, Loni, returns to Casa del Lagarto Azul after a neighborhood stroll. We bought in 2006. Six years later the development is finally taking shape. What an adventure!

Just three years ago, the Loreto Bay builder — the Trust for Sustainable Development (TSD) — went bankrupt. Citibank threw up its arms, sold off assets. Lots of money went in, and little came out. The dream was all but dead.

I remember a well-known sports figure telling me, “Two mil flushed down the friggin’ sea, bro.”

At that time the global economy was in global meltdown mode. The banking and auto industries blew up, and representatives scrambled, running as fast as they could, seeking bailouts from the feds (i.e. taxpayers).

It seemed impossible to conceive that, in 2012, we’d be just days away from the first ever Loreto food and wine festival, let alone that construction would continue, and the community would ultimately blossom. That thanks to a resilient group of home owners, many from western Canadian provinces (especially Alberta and British Columbia) and US states (California, Oregon, Washington).

Indeed, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What emerged was one of the most well-organized, powerful homeowner organizations in the world.

My wife, Loni, and I also bought into the dream. “Tread lightly, live fully” was the mantra. A margarita, all-you-can-eat tacos, artistic watercolor floor plans and plenty of high-fives were the fuel. And what a frenzy. You could buy in Malibu for $2 million. Or buy here, right next to the incredibly blue, stunning Sea of Cortez for a quarter of the cost. The fact that this desert enclave is a largely undiscovered, undeveloped paradise was a bonus. Unlike the mega-resorts built up along the southern tip of Baja California Sur in places like Cabo San Lucas, about a six hour drive south, Loreto is a sleepy fishing town. Spring-breakers flock to Puerta Vallarta on mainland. Here, you find fisherman, sailers, outdoor adventurers and those looking for the best tacos anywhere. So it didn’t seem crazy at the time that homes were increasing in value between 5 to 10% every month. If you were lucky enough to get your first lot choice, you’d be invited to a special presentation. There you’d pose for a photo with David Buttterfield, the chairman of TSD, and then place a red sold dot on your lot on a large map of the resort. Applause would ensue, drinks would flow. In the back of our minds, we were thinking, “what did I just do?!”

Indeed, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

What emerged was one of the most well-organized, powerful homeowner organizations in the world.

Projects now are funded by a carefully managed structure of “sub-regimes” that ultimately roll up into a master association. Funds are collected, and priorities discussed, debated and defined for each fiscal year. Money changes hands less often. There are fewer middle men. A side benefit: the bond between home owners and local trade, businesses is strong than ever. Both understand the value that the other brings to building an economically (and environmentally) sustainable community.

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Where will the Loreto Bay development be another six years from now?

No one knows for sure.

If anything we’ve learned through this process is that anything can and will happen. Homex, a large Mexican developer, has purchased many of the assets in the area, and that has helped instill confidence. Within the Loreto Bay community itself, small shops are sprouting up. Just over the last year or so, we’ve seen two cafes, a wine bar, and restaurant open. The town of Loreto itself has seen a remarkable transformation as well. A few years ago the streets were refinished. Upscale bakeries, shops and restaurants catering to tourists have emerged, as have many local entrepreneurs who are enjoying the good fortune of an increasingly travel destination.

In 2009 I started a social network called Club Loreto Bay. Today, it has over 800 home owners as members. Part of the story here is the power of social networking to galvanize interest, and action. It’s been an amazing lesson. When Loni and I first set up CLB we wondered if it would be of any use. Turns out the ability to communicate in real-time with all of us would help level the playing field. Lawyers, architects, accountants, CEOs, CFOs, writers, artists, all count themselves as members of those who have bought a lot or home here in Loreto Bay. Their skills combined with the ability to eliminate the friction typically associated with being scattered thousands of miles from each other resulted in a powerful homeowner group. Now at least we have a say in our destiny. There are many other critical organizations that play a role: Fonatur, the City of Loreto, the Mexican Government, Homex, local construction firms, and so many others.

In the past I’ve shot photos of the town, the farmer’s market, the town after dark, the adventure. Today, I’m pleased to show you the Agua Viva neighborhood (where our little casa is located). At one time I thought our investment here was a complete, utter write-off. Looking at these photos I feel the need to pinch myself.

Photo Gallery – Loreto Bay Resort, Baja Mexico

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  • Susan Fielder

    Wow, great to read this positive outcome. We owners in the Posada and hope for a positive outcome as well. It has been what you have coined, a very big learning experience and what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger for us too… Keep those positive words coming as this is a very unique place indeed. Susan

    • I agree. Thanks to the positive energy and incredible efforts by so many home owners who have taken it upon themselves to sort through all the issues, and to put plans in place, the community is coming to life, stronger than ever. 

      You probably know, but they’ve begun plastering and painting the two posadas. I looks like north is done, and crews are now working on south as I write this. I suspect this is for aesthetics, and not sure of final construction plan, but it is a step in the right direction for that part of the development.

  • Hi Clint,

    I just came across our Loreto Bay bochure from 2006. I wondered how things turned out down there. It seems well after all. We look forward to visiting again someday soon.

    The last month of sub-zero temperatures have not killed us, but they only thing they have made stronger is our desire to live someplace a little warmer.

    Thanks for the update.

    • Hi William, thanks. It took some time, lots of patience (mañana!), but Loreto Bay has come a long way. If you haven’t been since 2006, you may be surprised at how nicely things have progressed. That goes for the town of Loreto itself too which now has paved streets, and an upgraded Malecon among many other improvements. Best of all, it’s warm in Loreto!

  • kcalpar

    But all this development you’re so enthusiastic about is turning this “sleepy fishing village” into just another mega-city! Totally spoiling things; what’s the point of that?

    • Loreto is definitely still a sleepy fishing village.

      • kcalpar

        Give it time. If developers can make money, they will overrun the area like army ants on the march. Just 25 years ago SoCal was still beautiful, too. It took less than 10 years for the mortgage scam millions to move developers to buy up our farms, state parks, and county land and put it under condos and 5K-sq-ft housing — valley after valley of fruit orchards, canyon after canyon of what used to be Santa Monica Mountains State Park (along the coast), just untold thousands of miles, so fast it was over before anybody was aware of it.

  • Al

    Hi Clinton,
    My wife and I are seriously considering a long term rental in Loreto Bay later this year and perhaps making it our retirement location. Plan on a 2 week vacation in July to check it out, any thoughts?

    • I think you’ll love it. Couple of thoughts: (1) it’s definitely not commercial like Cabo – a plus in my books, but worth noting in case you were hoping to find Starbucks and other American-like amenities. (2) July will be hot – some love it, others not so much. (3) Loreto Bay landscaping has been almost finished, it’s a wonderful place to spend time, walk the neighborhoods. (4) There’a a wine bar, local cafe and a few small restaurants in Loreto Bay. (5) Downtown Loreto is only about 15 minutes away by car (I recommend a rental car). Let me know any questions you might have. We just got back from a 2-week March trip. Had a great time!