What Lies Beneath Monaco’s Billion Dollar Bay

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Nancy Heslin & Laurence Genevet    Contributors

What Lies Beneath Monaco’s Billion Dollar Bay

Technology tells the story of the country's $2.3 billion land extension project.

The Knight Frank Wealth Report in 2017 stated that $1 million buys you 17 square meters of luxury real estate in Monaco.

And while there’s no shortage of UHNWIs looking to purchase property in the Principality, house-hunting opportunities in a country of only 2.02 square kilometers—nearly the size of New York’s Central Park—are slim pickings.

Monaco’s Minister for Public Works, the Environment and Urban Development, Marie-Pierre Gramaglia, has stated that the country needs an additional 350,000 square meters every ten years to keep up with demand for housing, offices and living spaces. This translates into three options: build onto the Mediterranean sea, build on the remaining square meters of constructible land, or demolish older structures and build higher.

Since the 1960s, the Principality has added 20% to its territory, some 100 acres, by reclaiming land from the sea, and Prince Albert II’s current 6-hectare Portier Cove project is the most ambitious yet. The $2.3 billion (€2 billion) land extension due to be complete in 2025 will house 1,000 residents in lavish apartments and villas.

The development, currently under way, is near Monaco’s formidable congress center Grimaldi Forum and just off Avenue Princess Grace, named after Prince Albert’s mother Grace Kelly and listed as one of the Top Ten Most Expensive Streets in the World, with an average property costing $86,000 (€75,000) per square meter.

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS of his father Prince Rainier III, known as the “Builder Prince” who in 1971 created the 22-hectare district of Fontvieille, Prince Albert announced in the spring of 2013 his “offshore urban sea extension project” in the easternmost area of the Principality. This initiative he stated would be overseen by the Government but financed completely, from its design to its implementation, by a private group.

“Revenues for the private group through selling the apartments and houses will be more than $4.1 billion,” Jean-Luc Nguyen, Director of the Urban Offshore Extension Mission, told CNN earlier this year.

In July 2015, S.A.M. l’Anse du Portier/ Bouygues Travaux Publics won the concession contract, with the first phase of the maritime infrastructure estimated at $965 million (€842 million).

Bouygues Travaux Publics is part of the Bouygues Construction Group, a subsidiary of the Bouygues Group, which includes Bouygues Telecom and TF1 media. Brothers Martin and Olivier Bouygues, #404 on Forbes 2018 The World’s Billionaires with a net worth of $4.3 billion, own around 20% of the Bouygues Group.

The Group reported a net profit in 2017 of $1.24 billion (€1.085 billion), a year-on- year increase of 48%.

Martin and Olivier Bouygues, #404 onForbes 2018 The World’s Billionaires, have a net worth of $4.3 billion.

With the aim of minimizing the construction site’s impact on the environment and on the well-being of Monaco residents—one in three of whom is a millionaire (32.1%), according to information compiled by GlobalData WealthInsight—an Environmental Monitoring Committee composed of seven experts was set up to provide support and advice.

The Anse du Portier (Portier Cove) project consists of a platform surrounded by a protective belt composed of 18 concrete-filled chambers called “caissons” placed on an underwater embankment. Each 26-meter caisson weighs 10,000 tons and is being manufactured in Marseille, France, where 700 people have been employed for the operation.

WHEN PORTIER COVE IS FINISHED in 2025, it will become the first Monegasque green-neighborhood with a focus on soft mobility (non-motorized transport), and its “HQE Aménagement” environmental certification will be the crowning achievement of the project’s ecological commitments.

Forty percent of energy consumption for the pedestrian district will rely on solar technology—both photovoltaic (sunlight converted into heat) and thermal (harnessing the sun’s heat), of which 80% used for public lighting.

Additionally, the 60,000 square meters of residential units will be certified “BREEAM Excellent”, a third-party rating applied to developments “that enhance the well-being of the people who live and work in them, help protect natural resources and make for more attractive property investments.”

As early as 2014, a year before it signed the concession agreement with Monaco, Bouygues Travaux Publics and S.A.M. L’Anse du Portier, along with its partners Tractebel, Andromède Océanologie and DHI, conducted an impact study to identify the environmental issues and constraints of the site in order to integrate them into the very core of the project design and implementation methods.

These included measures such as installing buoys to monitor and alert about turbidity and relocating 143 Pinna nobilis protected species to the Larvotto marine reserve when preliminary work began in Monaco in 2016. Additionally, a 5 x 500-meter sound barrier was installed along the Promenade des Champions, near the Japanese Gardens.

Dredging and rock filling works had to limit and control turbidity in real time in order to measure water quality and once this phase was completed, construction of the underwater embankment commenced.

By December 2017, the 200-meter fallpipe vessel Simon Stevin arrived in Monaco, loaded with specially prepared quarry material that had been stored and washed in the port of Marseille-Fos. Used to lay the foundation embankment, Simon Stevin is the largest underwater rock installation vessel in the world.

It carried caissons manufactured in Marseille, the first of which arrived in July 2018, and these will form a protective belt between Monaco’s new neighborhood and the sea waves.

Since the 1960s, Monaco has added 20% to its territory by reclaiming land from the sea.

THE CAISSON PRECASTING AREA consists of a 10,000-square-meter working space at the Marseille-Fos port, which will be used primarily for preparing the reinforcements and assembling formwork for the caissons. A first in France, a floating dock—56 x 50 x 27 meter—will facilitate the prefabrication of the 18 caissons.

The caissons Biositiv facades are equipped with ecological devices developed by Bouygues Travaux Publics’ R&D teams and in partnership with marine restoration ecologists. Artificial reefs will be installed in the front of the structure for environmental, recreational (diving) and fishing (fish biomass) purposes.

Once the caissons belt is fully constructed and connected, the final backfilling of the platform of the future extension may begin. It consists of marine sand extracted in northern Sicily by a dredger that transports 60,000 cubic meters of sand per trip and does one round trip every 80 hours. It empties the sand contained in its holds hydraulically, thanks to a floating pipe that discharges a mixture of sand and water that settles inside the new enclosure and re-drains the excess of water.

It will take Bouygues Travaux Publics until the end of 2019 to complete this infrastructure project below sea level, where highly technological maritime structures and artificial reefs will become new ecological corridors.

The start of the second phase, the $1.15 billion (€1 billion) development work, which will include 400-square-meter apartments and 1,000-square-meter individual villas, will run another five years. A timeline that well coincides with the extra 2,700 millionaires that Knight Frank estimates will call Monaco home by 2026. ✱

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Nancy Heslin   Editor

Nancy (Wilson) Heslin is an established journalist and lifestyle writer.  She has been the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Monaco magazine (bimonthly in English) , since the magazine's 2nd issue . Launched in November 2018, Forbes Monaco is part of the Forbes family, with its 7 million readers and 71 million monthly website visitors worldwide.

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Laurence Genevet   Contributor