PRISA Group Starts Construction of District Live
SAN JUAN — Local developer PRISA Group unveiled Wednesday its latest project, an entertainment complex dubbed “District Live” at San Juan’s Convention Center District. The $89 million complex, which is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2019, is expected to create 3,383 jobs, said PRISA Group President Federico Stubbe.
“This is the most impactful development in the Convention District yet,” said Puerto Rico Secretary of State Víctor Suárez during an event at the nearby Convention Center that brought together several top officials—among them Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in his last official act before traveling to New York later Wednesday to meet with the fiscal oversight board—and in which various musical acts and dance troupes participated.
“This is taking place in Puerto Rico during a time of crisis, as many have said,” García Padilla said during the event. “Investors and companies from here and abroad are betting on Puerto Rico, and it’s not just me saying it; politicians aren’t in fashion nowadays, I know that.”
The complex will feature a live event venue called The Pavilion, with a 6,000-person capacity and occupying 105,000 square feet; a 170-room hotel to operate under a new, yet unnamed “lifestyle” brand owned by Marriott Corp., boasting 6,000 square feet of meeting space and 40,000 square feet of public areas including bars, restaurants and pools; and an eight-theater multiplex, dubbed Caribbean Cinemas VIP: A Premium Experience.
A closed 44,000-square-foot central plaza, which will serve as the connecting thread for all of the attractions, will feature several lighting and projection elements alongside the largest LED screen in the Caribbean, Stubbe said. “It’s like a smaller version of Times Square [in New York], but even livelier,” he added, also drawing comparisons to the Fremont Street district in Las Vegas. “This one will be much more advanced,” Stubbe noted. Just like in Fremont, the plaza will feature a zip-line attraction, courtesy of Orocovis-based Toro Verde. About 62,000 square feet of restaurant, bars and entertainment venues will be available around the plaza.
Other attractions will include a micro rum distillery conceived by Roberto Serrallés, of Don Q fame; an 18,000-square-foot dayclub/nightclub concept operated by noted club impresario Shimmy McHugh; a coffee shop operated by Hacienda San Pedro, based in Jayuya; The Salsa Room, a 500-spectator venue for dancing, theater and comedy shows; a radio and TV production facility dubbed District Live Studios and with views of the complex’s central plaza; and Kidz Zone, an entertainment center for youngsters.
The Pavilion will be operated by AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group), billed as one of the biggest event venue operators in the world with an inventory of more than 100 facilities including Staples Center in Los Angeles, The O2 in London and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. AEG also helped develop L.A. Live, a 4-million-square-foot entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles. “The development of The Pavilion responds to a need we saw in a medium-sized venue on the island that lends itself to all sorts of events, from concerts to boxing matches,” Stubbe explained.
The hotel, meanwhile, is being built in conjunction with Caribe Hospitality, a Costa Rica-based developer that has had a hand in the construction of almost a dozen Marriott hotels in the Central American and Caribbean region. “They have looked into the Puerto Rico market for years, since the 2005-2009 government term, and only now have they decided to jump aboard,” Suárez said.
The upcoming hotel will also duplicate the Convention District’s room inventory once completed, Suárez noted. In recent years, Island Hospitality Partners, a partnership led by PRISA Group with the participation of McConnell Valdés Consulting Inc., developed two hotels, a Hyatt House and a Hyatt Place, that opened in the district in October 2014 and January 2016, respectively, and which complement the nearby Sheraton Hotel, with its 500-plus rooms. The partnership has also recently developed Hyatt Place Bayamón and Hyatt Place Manatí; District Live would be their fifth collaboration in five years.
Banco Popular provided $26.9 million in financing for the District Live project, as did Oriental Bank with $15.5 million. The Puerto Rico Coop Bank and the Puerto Rico Development Bank did likewise with $3 million and $8 in financing, respectively. The remaining $27.7 million consist of private investment capital by the developer.
The government’s participation also consisted in leasing the land—directly located across the Convention Center’s main fountain, in what is dubbed Parcel J—which in turn gives it a 30% participation in the project’s future revenue, Suárez told reporters, adding they expect the project to generate an additional $10 million for the Convention District in the next decade.