To the ends of the earth

Always on the hunt for the next 'hot spot', investors are looking to distant destinations for better returns. Ginetta Vedrickas reports on two opportunities in Hong Kong and Argentina
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The Independent Online

The world is shrinking. As UK investors look further afield for investment opportunities, South America is now in their sights. Argentina to many people means top-flight polo and premium-quality beef, but a stylish new development, the Faena Project in Buenos Aires, will soon be added to its attractions. The project includes 85 apartments but is being marketed as a "multi-functional space", including a five-star hotel. Amenities include full concierge and room services, restaurants, shops, a business centre, gym and spa as well as venues hosting live shows.

The world is shrinking. As UK investors look further afield for investment opportunities, South America is now in their sights. Argentina to many people means top-flight polo and premium-quality beef, but a stylish new development, the Faena Project in Buenos Aires, will soon be added to its attractions. The project includes 85 apartments but is being marketed as a "multi-functional space", including a five-star hotel. Amenities include full concierge and room services, restaurants, shops, a business centre, gym and spa as well as venues hosting live shows.

It's less a development than a "concept", however; Philippe Starck is chief designer and his touch is evident everywhere. Starck's portfolio encompasses major hotels such as Hong Kong's Peninsula, the Mondrian in Los Angeles and the Hotel Delano in Miami. He explains his role in this latest project: "The Faena Hotel and Universe has been conceived as a huge house that will shelter the energetic and talented tribe living in Buenos Aires. Everything related to creativity will take place here. The concept governing the design is that something should happen in every minute. It will be so attractive that it will become a spotlight. Faena Hotel and Universe will be my best creation to date."

The apartments have been created from the seventh and eighth floors of the El Porteño building, a former grain warehouse, in the heart of the financial centre in San Temo, the oldest neighbourhood in the city, and the area best known for its architecture. Buyers can choose from small or medium-sized residences and two rental options. The first includes a short, mid or long term rental where the managing agent finds a tenant. The second option, available for the six-month long "high season", will be let on a daily basis as part of the hotel, netting owners a minimum of one month's rent.

All apartments feature white and grey arabescato marble shipped from Tuscany, dark lapacho wood and Starck's trademark oversized bathtubs and etched glass chandeliers. Prices increase the higher up the building you go but start from £75,000; the average price is £100,000. Chief executive Alan Faena of the Faena Group says: "I want residents to feel that they live on a remote island in the heart of the city, an island with all facilities and services, an island where life is an experience."

Faena grew up in Buenos Aires and still lives there today: "It's a wonderful place, very cosmopolitan and filled with Europeans and a project such as this is exactly what we need locally and internationally." Faena has found that around 50 per cent of buyers are foreign; of these, 20 per cent are British. He explains why the project appeals to British buyers: "The building itself was created by Englishmen back in 1902 and even the bricks are from Manchester. We have always had strong links."

Originally the building stored grain, which was then exported to the UK at a time when Argentina's economy was booming. The boom may have long gone but Faena believes that the economy is set to see an upturn. "For sure this is going to be an excellent investment for buyers. Building costs are so much lower here and the price is comparatively cheap for what you're getting. Where else can you live in such a huge space, designed by Philippe Starck and just call down when you need a massage or food delivered to your apartment?"

Avatar International's Amar Sodhi isn't surprised at the interest in Latin America. "Many of our investor clients want to stay one step ahead of the game. They are looking for guaranteed rental income where they can find it." Sodhi does not believe that the distance of the location poses a problem: "After all, Florida has been a bestseller for many years, yet it still takes about 10 hours to get there. You can get to Sao Paolo in Brazil in about the same amount of time."

Faena buyer Robert Penn is not deterred by the distance. "There are now direct fights from the UK and the time difference is only three hours." He has bought two units, which he plans to turn into one large apartment. "It will have fantastic views of Rio de la Plata on one side and the city of Buenos Aires on the other." Penn was attracted by Starck's involvement "for a relatively low cost" and is looking forward to enjoying five-star hotel services. He also plans to let the apartment: "November to March in Buenos Aires is warm, sunny and beautiful and I'd much rather be there then than in London."

On the other side of the world in Hong Kong, another Starck project is getting a lot of attention. JIA, the first boutique hotel apartments in Asia, is "targeting a hip crowd who are making it their home from home". A joint venture between PC Asia and YOO Design, a European design house founded by Starck and John Hitchcox, the apartments feature many of Starck's signature designs, with an accent on spatial clarity and comfort.

The apartments are rented on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis, which Hitchcox believes will be an attractive option. "We are committed to developing property with a pulse. I love the idea of living here permanently. For someone like me who starts work at 6am in London and finishes at 10pm in Boston a concept like this is fantastic."

JIA, which translates as "home" in Mandarin, opened just three months ago and some residents are already in situ. For busy execs like Hitchcox, who are constantly travelling the globe, this is the closest they may get to a home. "It's like having your own living room downstairs in the hotel. I pop down and there's always someone I know there. With all the hotel services available it's like having your own PA living in. The lines are now blurred and I see this as a real merger between hotels and apartments. This is the future."

Faena Hotel and Universe: 0054 11 4021 5555, www.faenaexperience.com

Avatar International: 08707 282827, www.avatar-international.com

JIA: 00852 3196 9000 www.jiahongkong.com

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