In fact Merri and I have learned to watch for Ecuador investment opportunities in the ups and downs and the sudden, unexpected improvements of Ecuador.
This trip the first surprise was at Quito airport. They have improved it so dramatically that had I not known where I was I would never have guessed. They have added jet ways, a totally new and very attractive entrance, waiting area, huge vases of roses everywhere, etc. The arrival experience has moved from smooth and easy to very nice.
But the area that has really changed and where we see an enormous upside investment potential is in Old Quito. Ecuador real estate and Ecuador property offers excellent value, but Quito property and Quito real estate offers incredible value.
Colonial Quito was the original and quaint portion of the city that was founded at Ecuador's Spanish beginnings in the 1500s. Incredible beauty and deep history is set in stone here. Huge cathedrals, majestic stone monasteries, the Presidential Palace, The restored Opera House, convents, a multitude of colonial house-hold treasures, untold tales and history.
Yet this grand city had slid into ruin and decay and was headed for oblivion. Crime was high, street vendors cluttered every alley and beggars pestered incessantly. There was little safety in strolling the narrow cobblestone lanes.
No more! Two years ago the government decided to clean up Old Quito's act. They added numerous tourist police, moved all vendors into a market place, enforced a painting code (everyone had to paint their house), bought up hundreds of decaying buildings and created a renovation plan that includes a reconstruction plan operated by the city, and they began providing grants and no-interest ten year loans to private builders who fix up old places. The municipality has already completed 517 new condos at 20 locations and have 600 more units planned and underway.
The opera house has been totally renovated. An amazing five star hotel (Patio Andluz) has opened and there are numerous plazas that have been cleaned up, decorated and turned into restful, beautiful, safe places to stroll.
Our first inspection began at night and I was amazed at how safe the area has become. We strolled the cobblestones, along broad avenues and into narrow alleys without a feel of worry. Young lovers sat hugging on benches and you could tell that safety was not their concern. I looked at the crime stats and the petty theft etc. is almost entirely gone. I certainly feel as safe here than in most U.S. cities.
Our next trip was during the day and this was where the real shift showed itself. Children played and hiked the streets, young girls were walking the streets alone on their way home from school. The children were laughing without care. Follow the mothers and fathers when looking for safety in a place. Concerned Latin parents would not let their kids loose if danger lurked.
That evening as I strolled down a cobblestone alley, listening to the history that the ancient stone and wood structures whispered to me. I stopped and let the enormity of this city's history sink in. 500 years of living is settled in this ancient architecture.
This is one of the most magnificent and under used pieces of man's infrastructure. Properties are being sold for pennies on the dollar. This is history, architecture and structure that cannot be duplicated even if 100 times what it is selling for were spent.
If you love cities and history, then this may well be an investment for you. I believe fortunes will be made. Tomorrow's message explains how. Until then may your history be good.