Seasoned investors plan upscale seniors complex

In what is being described as still a concept, a seniors’ community of perhaps 500 living units is planned west of Escazú.

Developer José Luis Salinas, architect and president of Grupo Inmobilario del Parque, estimates that the concept may become a reality in about a year.

Salinas runs the company that built condo towers in Sabana Sur and now is building similar projects on Paseo Colón and near the Hotel San José Palacio. He also is the designer of the Avalon complexes in Santa Ana and many others in Costa Rica. His partner in the project will be famed New York architect Ismael Leyva and other local professionals.

A new addition to this project is San Francisco multi-millionaire and investor Maurice Kanbar. He was in San José over the weekend and said in an interview that he was impressed by the weather and sees great promise for a well-managed senior living complex here. He also visited Hospital CIMA and said he was impressed by the quality of the care and the level of English spoken by the staff.

The primary market for such a complex will be non-Spanish speaking North Americans near or at retirement age. This would be the first such complex in Costa Rica devoted exclusively to seniors, although many retirees make up the expat population.

Part of the concept is similar to the Del Web retirement communities, the Villages in Florida, and Montereau in Warren Woods at Tulsa, Oklahoma. Those involved in the project note that the sister-in-law of Sam Walton of Walmart lives in Montereau along with many other important residents. All these projects provide social services inside the complex which is far different than ordinary condos, they said.

Kanbar, a life-long inventor, created SKYY vodka, a top of the line alcoholic product said to reduce hangovers, and sold it for $320 million, according to court records.

The arrival of the U.S. inventor sent ripples through the country’s real estate and investment community. La Republica headlined him as an arriving U.S. genius. He is highly respected and a self-described conservative investor, who has donated tens of millions to charity. His interest in the project at this point insures completion, although he cautions that management is everything.

Although expats in the complex would have the option of staying there with all the amenities, both Kanbar and Salinas see the need for a way to integrate the residents into the greater Costa Rican community, even if that just means a trip to the Teatro Nacional. Salinas noted that the Paseo Colón project will have two vehicles to provide transport for residents, and the same would be planned for the new project, which will be on 14 hectares east of Ciudad Colón. That’s about 34.5 acres, but the developers see this as just a first step.  The landowner is said to be participating.

Kanbar himself does not speak Spanish, but is far from a Latin novice. The Brooklyn native’s cousin built a life and a major business in Panamå, and Kanbar has been to Costa Rica in the past.

He has an impressive record as an investor and hard-headed businessman. He began in his teens selling children’s photos to neighborhood parents and stubbornly mixed a salaried job with sabbaticals during which he created a company to produce fibers, the Spandex Corp., taking part of the market from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co.  He authored the 2002 book “Secrets from an Inventor’s Notebook,” which was on The New York Times best seller list, and holds some 40 U.S. patents.

Kanbar is known for buying much of downtown Tulsa and for being the producer of the little Red Riding Hood animated update “Hoodwinked” and long time major distributor of foreign films in the U. S. especially through his Quad Theatres in New York.

Kanbar came to know Salinas through Angela Jiménez Rocha of, who studied architecture with Salinas.

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