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Issue 36
An online magazine about investing, living, working and relocating to the Caribbean.
Ramblings, thoughts and occasional sense from the Eastern Caribbean >>
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Caribbean Property Magazine, Real Estate, jobs, relocation, living and working The Caribbean House of the Future
Caribbean Property Magazine, Real Estate, jobs, relocation, living and working
Surviving Hurricane Hugo, Part 2 of 2
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Celebration of a Vision : Punta Cana      
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Pursuit of the Good Life, Belize Style
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Carmelita : A New Ruralism 
Caribbean Property Magazine, Real Estate, jobs, relocation, living and working Panama’s Economic Benefits  
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Merida’s Medical Tourism, Good Enough for the President   
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2010 Predictions: The Dawning of a New Age       

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S P E C I A L  caribbean, west indies, real estate, property, land, retiring, moving, relocating, living, working, expats, international living, overseas, abroad, caribbean property magazine, caribpro F E A T U R E S

by Phil Hahn

The two most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world are rainforests and reefs and the tiny country of Belize has both. Since my first visit, this beautiful place, known as “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret”, has inspired me. It has also puzzled me. I don’t understand how a peaceful English-speaking member of the British Commonwealth can sit virtually unnoticed in the sweet spot between the Caribbean and Central America.

That first trip to Belize was in 2003 when the real estate boom was in full swing in Florida and my residential design firm was designing hundreds of homes each year. So, naturally I first saw Belize as a Florida-like opportunity. As I researched and thought about all of the possibilities, I spent a lot of time talking to my wife’s family from Key West, Florida. I gained some very valuable insight from a family that goes back six generations in Key West.

I started thinking about my favorite places and I realized that they were quaint towns with unique character, culture and history. Of course, Key West is one of those places and so are St. Augustine, FL and Apalachicola, FL. It also made me realize that the places I tried to avoid were the sprawling metropolises like Miami, Orlando and Tampa.
I was very thankful at that point that Belize was still largely unknown and had not been overrun with development and tourist traps like so many other places in the Americas. After purchasing property in 2003, I began planning a community and broke ground in 2005. Known as Orchid Bay, it is well underway as a traditional town using Belizean historical and cultural references with nearly 50% of the community planned as Green Space. It has been a dream come true to see this charming new Caribbean town emerge from the forest.

As I mentioned in my opening, Belize is home to two incredible ecosystems. The Belize Barrier Reef is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and has been declared a World Heritage Site. Furthermore, nearly 40% of the country of Belize is in protected forest reserves and national parks. As a designer and developer in Belize, I recognize the importance of preserving these global resources.

Most people find out about Belize because of the reef or the Maya ruins deep in the rainforest. Many come for a one-of-a-kind vacation, others plan annual trips and some move to Belize for a great new lifestyle. Increasingly, the common thread amongst all of these folks is a quest for pristine environments and wholesome adventures. I refer to these attractions as the 4R’s of Belize; Reef, Ruins, Rainforests and Rivers. Incidentally, one of my Belizean friends recently told me that I left out an R, Rum, so, it’s now 4R’s + 1.
The small population (300,000) and vast protected areas have kept Belize beautiful and made it one of the top eco-tourist destinations in the world. With its abundant natural resources, Belize is perfectly positioned for a sustainable future. Gaining inspiration from this situation, I have begun work on a new community based on “Smart Growth” and “Off-the Grid” principles. It is called Carmelita and it sits in the fertile Belize River Valley in western Belize.

The property is comprised of 450 acres with rainforest on one side and the Belize River on the other. It has over a mile of river front and a spectacular view of the Maya Mountains. There are two neighboring communities; one is the riverfront village of Santa Familia and the other is the Mennonite town of Spanish Lookout. It is within this pastoral setting that Carmelita is being laid out as a New Ruralist community.
My inspiration for Carmelita comes from many sources. One of which is the land itself, with its history, topography and location. My business partner and owner of the property is Daniel Silva, whose family has owned Carmelita Farm for generations. As the former Minister of Agriculture, Dan understands the land and environment of Belize. Therefore, he has requested that I create a plan that preserves the 150 acre rainforest (home to Howler Monkeys and native fruit trees) that occupies the north side of the property. His background and the history of the family farm have inspired me to design a new village with plenty of room for organic gardens, micro-farms and community agriculture.

The principles of New Ruralism are really resonating with people looking for an alternative to the rat race. The ability to independently generate electricity from the sun and produce a sustainable amount of food from a garden at affordable prices is finally here. For years the intrepid few have lived off-the-grid in remote locations, but, now it is a mainstream reality.

Carmelita is designed to combine new technologies, traditional gardening and classical design into a New Ruralism community of independent homes. Sibella Kraus, the author of A Call for New Ruralism says, “New Ruralism is a framework for creating a bridge between Sustainable Agriculture and New Urbanism”.
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Orchid Bay Belize

Each unit consists of a lower level and upper level condo around a courtyard.  The lower condos start at an attractive cost of $63,500 and the upper ones start at $79,900. A home owners association fee is applicable to home purchases.

This fee covers the ongoing property maintenance, and the on-site security! The Riverfront lots starting at $32,900 offer an enchanting view of the Rio Gariche (Gariche River).

Carmelita is a modern approach to planning a traditional village. Classical influences from British and Spanish country estates provide timeless design references for cottages and villas surrounded by orchards, organic gardens and ponds.

The fertile land at Carmelita makes it the perfect setting for organic gardens and farm land that will provide residents with locally grown fresh produce. The abundant green spaces will have a variety of plants and landscapes such as fruit trees, vegetables, nut trees, butterfly gardens, flower beds and palm gardens. Residents can participate in community gardening or simply enjoy the produce baskets that will be delivered through the Home Owners Association.
I believe the success of a community is determined by the happiness of its residents. At Carmelita I have planned a New Ruralist village as the setting for owners and guests to enjoy a relaxing and fulfilling lifestyle. The lifestyle at Carmelita includes river, rainforest, rural and recreational activities.

The river is ideal for canoeing, fishing and swimming. Nestled at the edge of the rainforest, residents can enjoy hiking, bird watching and wildlife photography. The pastoral landscape is perfect for gardening, walking and horseback riding. The plan includes a community center, multiple parks and extensive greenways for various recreational uses. The overriding vision for Carmelita is that residents enjoy a relaxing and healthy lifestyle in a sustainable community.


Living a simple and sustainable life in Belize is not a new concept; I have met several expats that have been doing it for years. Carmelita is simply the first planned community of its kind in Belize. In fact, there are very few planned communities in the country. There are only two cities in the entire country and only a few towns; most of the population lives in small villages.

The fastest growing town in Belize is across the river from Carmelita. It is San Ignacio and along with Santa Elena is known as the twin towns. San Ignacio is known locally as Cayo, which means island or “key” in Spanish, because two rivers flow around the town to form an island. The rivers are the Macal and Mopan which meet just north of Carmelita to form the historic Belize River.

The rivers were the highways for the Maya who once flourished in the area known today as the Cayo District. History has come full circle and today the Cayo District is flourishing again. It is the breadbasket of Belize, the home to the nation’s capital (Belmopan), the host to one of the newest U.S. Embassy’s in the world, and surprisingly, the source of sweet crude oil recently discovered on a Mennonite farm.
With the resources of an entire country concentrated in one area, it’s no wonder Cayo has become the fastest growing region of Belize and the ideal location for Carmelita.


Even with the growth in Cayo, it was apparent to me that for Carmelita to grow the price of home sites and homes has to be affordable. With the current global economy on a slow recovery path the “price-point” of real estate is perhaps the most important aspect of a buyer’s decision.

With a low basis in the land, nearby resources and an off-the-grid philosophy, home sites are priced from $15,000 US to $55,000 US, depending on size and location. Additionally, an owner in Carmelita can purchase a small off-the-grid Garden Cottage for under $100,000.

The philosophy at Carmelita is simple, “Provide an affordable place for people to live a healthy, happy and independent lifestyle.”
Author : Philip Hahn. Phil always dreamed of the tropics while growing up in Michigan. He started his southerly migration in 1982 by attending Florida State University. At FSU he studied Interior Design and Housing. Prior to graduation, he started a residential design business that ultimately designed over 6,000 homes and expanded into construction and development. In 2003, Phil saw the potential for development in Belize and purchased 115 acres for the development of Orchid Bay, a “New Urbanism” community. Combining his experience with quality coastal home design and his love of classical architecture he created an evocative new Caribbean town. Over the past six years his interest in Belize has grown to include multiple properties throughout the northern and western part of the country. He is currently developing Carmelita, a “New Ruralism” community located on the Belize River in the Cayo District. Phil’s passion and respect for the people, history and lifestyle of this unique region have inspired him to create beautiful enduring homes and communities. Phil received a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and is certified by the Institute of Classical Architecture in New York. Phones: 001-850-251-7045 (US) and 011-501-620-8782 (BZ)

Email : Phil Hahn
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