Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Investors are planning a new sight for arrivals at Port-au-Prince’s international airport: a seven-story, 240-room luxury hotel rising just past the runway.
The $33 million project is one of the largest private investment efforts since the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake. Planned for private land that has not been developed in decades, in an area surrounded by slums, the hotel is seen by its backers as a critical step in attracting further development and investment to the impoverished country.

The magnitude-7 earthquake killed a government-estimated 300,000 people and left millions homeless. It also destroyed or damaged most of the capital’s few high-end hotels, most notably the total collapse of the Hotel Montana near the mountain suburb of Petionville.

“For the reconstruction of Haiti to begin, the guys who are going to build it need a place to stay,” partner Edmund Miller told The Associated Press.

About a third of the funding for the currently unnamed hotel will come from private investors, including Argentine energy mogul and developer Ronaldo Gonzalez-Bunster and Haiti’s powerful Mevs family, who own the property.

The rest will be requested from lending organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, Miller said.

That effort could get a boost from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti and co-chairman of the committee overseeing its reconstruction, who is backing the project.

The property is described as “self-contained,” with its own power plant, water and sewage treatment facilities. It would include a conference center, swimming pool, spa, lounges and other amenities. Developers say it will meet or exceed international earthquake standards.

Unlike most of the existing and planned hotels rocked by the earthquake, the new complex will be a short drive from the wreckage of downtown Port-au-Prince and near some of the capital’s most notorious slums, including Cite Soleil, where small-scale violence between gangs fighting over aid has recently been on the rise.

WIN Group managing partner Youri Mevs said the project would raise land values in the area and promote rehabilitation of the airport neighborhood.

“For the last 10 to 15 years the whole neighborhood’s economic vitality has been slowly drained. … We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to the country” to develop the area, she said.

Contractor bidding is expected in October, with construction to be completed within about 18 months. It is not clear if Haitian contractors will be given contracts, though manual labor is expected to employ people from surrounding areas. Groundbreaking is expected by early 2011.

Mevs said there currently are no families living on the site, which has been used primarily for agriculture. But families made homeless by the quake fill most of the acres around the airport and could be affected by construction.