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.