TBY talks to Manuel Terán J., President of Urbanizadora La Laguna, on spotting long-term trends, building for the future, and lowering carbon footprints.

Manuel Terán J.
Ing. Manuel Terán Jiménez is a founding partner and was the general manager of Urbanizadora La Laguna, S.A. from 1991 to 2012 before becoming its President that year. He was also a founding partner and general manager of Naret, S.A. from 1993 through 2010, when he became president of that company. Additionally, he is a founding partner and has been the president of Coeficiente Urbano since 2005. He has also been a director of GTU Desarrollos since 1992.

What have been some of your most significant projects, and how is the company diversifying its portfolio to move also into the commercial segment?

Our main business is developing gated residential communities. Some of the most recent ones in the central valley are Condominio Cerro Alto, Condominio Villamont, Condominio Los Portones, Condominio Monterán, Condominio Gregal, Condominio Tierras de Café, Condominio Francosta, Condominio Santo Tomás, and Condominio Los Murales. Our projects are known for being large-scale communities with lots of amenities; we put a lot of emphasis on the green areas and open spaces of our developments. Our properties also have a lot of space for sports and community gatherings. Usually the people that buy our properties stay in them for a long time because they provide the perfect environment to raise families and live a full community experience. After the construction process, we also offer property management and post-construction maintenance for all of our communities.

How is La Laguna adapting its projects to the newest technology?

Now, we are starting an interesting project related to technological infrastructure whereby we will provide a fiber-optic network to all of our projects and Fiber to the Home (FTTH) for all of our clients. We want all of our projects to have a network that can provide high-speed connectivity for all of the units we sell and for all of the common areas of the developments. We started with this project last year, and we already have a couple of developments that have their own fiber optic network and a lot of houses operating with bandwidths of 50 to 100MB each. Our idea is that each day, more people work from their houses and need to use the internet for all of their basic daily activities. For this to happen, they need a stable and fast internet connection and is the reason why we designed a robust active network of more than 250km around the central valley. We have the biggest private active fiber-optic network in the city.

What trends are you noticing in the residential segment and how do you foresee the sector developing in the medium term?

In 2016, we started a couple of projects that have made this a great year for us. We have observed a tendency of people living in mid-size and tall residential buildings; therefore, we are trying to add certain properties within our project portfolio that allow for vertical construction. One of the newest projects we have is located on the East part of town, and it is going to have around 3,000 residential and commercial units, most of which are going to be built on mid-size buildings. The central valley is a small area with strict construction regulations, and there is very little land left on which we can develop our projects; hence, we are trying to develop fewer projects but with more density and less footprint.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for companies doing business in Costa Rica?

The number-one issue of our industry and of national importance is the permitting process. In such a small country as ours, we have 81 different municipalities, all with different rules and different ways of approving construction permits, making it hard for any developer to understand how to do business in each county. Since we have a complex permitting process because of our scale, we have had to develop an important permitting department in our company. This department now offers the service or approving project permits for many other developers of the country.