In Manhattan, they build up. In Monaco, out to sea. Real estate has always come at a price on this stretch of the coast, and that price is dictated by availability not just of property, but of land.
So great is the demand for property that the Principality has been forced – at various times in its history – to reclaim coastal areas for development. The first extension was during the 1880s, when the area around Port Hercule was created. Larvotto beach was developed in the 1960s, and Fontvieille in 1970. Now, in an ambitious plan, a 15-acre (six hectare) plot will extend into the Mediterranean further than ever, with a newly reclaimed area stretching from the Grimaldi Forum onto a man-made island.
The plan is to create 120 luxury houses in an eco-friendly setting named Mareterra (meaning, appropriately, sea-land), the new name for the district previously known as ‘Anse du Portier’ (Portier Cove).
That’s important in an area as environmentally sensitive as Monaco. Indeed, it won’t be just millionaires moving in. From the outset the project has been designed with sea creatures very much in mind. Three months was spent transferring endangered species to a new home, and it’s hoped that the artificial coral forming the substructure of the island will attract new maritime tenants. One thing is for sure. Their new home will cost a great deal less the €100,000 per square metre asking price for the human inhabitants.
The construction of the site has been a truly Cyclopean task. The project’s budget is around €2 billion, making it one of the largest construction projects currently being undertaken in Europe. Now that the ringfence of eighteen concrete ‘caissons’ is complete, construction company Bouygues has begun the the draining and infilling of land, a process that has involved pumping out half a million cubic metres of sea water. Replacing it are three-quarters of a million tonnes of sand specially shipped from neighbouring France and Italy.
The next stage will be the construction of the housing itself, according to designs by the world-famous architect Renzo Piano. Known for landmark structures such as London’s Shard, Piano made his name in 1977 with the Pompidou Centre in Paris. His partner on that project, Richard Rogers, has also been responsible for transforming Monaco’s skyline with the One Monte Carlo mulifunctional residence in Casino Square.
Renzo gives his name to the westernmost build of Mareterra, a stepped highrise that appears to float above the island. Other squares and public places are named for members of the current Prince’s family: crown prince Jacques gives his name to the seafront esplanade, while his twin sister Gabriella is honoured in a spacious park. A sculpture by the famed printmaker and kinetic artist Alexander Calder, bought by Prince Rainier, will be installed in yet another green space:
Real estate agents Knight Frank predict that in the next six years the Monaco population will include over 16,000 millionaires and 1,450 ultra high net worth individuals (those with assets over $30 million). But with nearly 3000 of this elite clientele expected to settle in Monaco by 2026, the question has to be – after Mareterra, where next?
Images © https://mareterra.com