Price per square meter ranges from ¢20,000 ($40) to ¢45,000 (US$92) depending on the zone in Grecia, Alajuela.

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The development of 21 housing projects in the last five years is transforming Grecia into a bedroom community.

People are attracted by the security, public services and a more relaxed lifestyle found there. Newcomers come from Alajuela, Heredia, San Jose and abroad.

1,419 New Homes:

City Hall’s department of Planning and Building Control said projects include buildings on some 1,419 lots. In seven out of the eight county districts at least one housing project is being built. Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge) has the most projects, with eight in total.

“Newcomers want to get out of the capital. From here they can still work in the city and educate their children,” said the financial coordinator of Residencial La Guaria.

Among other advantages are a 40-minute drive to San Jose, greater security and a reasonable price per square meter. Grecia is not cheap but somewhat less expensive than other areas.

The projects have wide paved streets, large green areas and private security. Many condominiums also have pools, cabanas, tennis courts and clubhouses. Four of these projects are being built in Puente de Piedra, 1 km from Bernardo Soto Highway. In other districts, such as San Isidro and Rio Cuarto, 500 square-meter lots are being sold.

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Guarantees. According to developers, services including water, telephone, power and waste disposal are of good quality. Water is supplied by City Hall or by the Rural Aqueducts Association (Asadas).

In 2006, City Hall will invest ¢1,000 million (US$2,040,816) to improve the system that serves more than 5,000 users. WPP picks up 900 tons of garbage per month in Grecia. City Hall guarantees this service and the mayor envisions no problems with more residents.

The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) installs 50 new lines every month. In the first quarter of 2006, 10,000 lines to cover the demand for the next five years will enlarge the network.

Benefits. The arrival of newcomers benefits the community even if they spend much of their time away from home. Some shop or eat out in the area while others purchase materials for repairs or improvements.

Crime. Regional Police Supervisor William Cruz, said that the police are working more, but have only experienced an increase in cases of domestic violence (from 22 to 30 per month).

Developers and City Hall authorities say the boom is just beginning and that soon it will be felt in the schools, health centers and the social development of the county.

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Farmers Sell Land To Survive.

Otto Diez Kooper has been a farmer all his life in Grecia as were his parents and grandparents. Two years ago he began selling lots in Residencial Las Lomas. He is one of the farmers who decided to sell part of his land to housing projects. He has sold eight hectares.

“I have been in construction six months because the procedure is slow and it has taken me more than a year. I am paying now for the right to build because I did not do my homework,” he said.

Proximity: Those who buy a lot in Grecia say that being 40 minutes from the capital is an advantage. “I started the project because I was tired of not making money out of farming. I have always been opposed to selling land, because land is always a winner. But, a tomato is not,” he said.

At first he sold 500-square-meter lots at $20 per meter. “Those who bought at that price are selling them at a somewhat higher price. New projects have created more competition.”

Traditionally, Grecia is a county dedicated to producing sugar cane and coffee. Other industrial and textile activities also contribute to development. “It’s just a small change. I plan to continue with coffee, as long as it’s feasible,” he said.

Peace: People who buy a lot to build in Grecia point out that it is a peaceful place, with clean air and quality services. “The situation in San Jose, with muggings and conflicts, is difficult. Grecia is still rural,” said Alberto Castillo, a merchant who lives in Pavas and plans to move to Residencial La Guaria.

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According to Castillo, being only 40 minutes from San Jose is an advantage. “I could move my business to Grecia due to its growth rate,” said this owner of a grocery store in Pavas.

Other reasons to invest, he said, are the quality of schools and the cleanliness of the place. Carlos Barquero, who has lived 30 years in San Francisco de Dos Rios, a suburb of San Jose, wants to return to his place of birth, where most of his family lives. “I bought to build my retirement home, although I may decide to move there before that, but that would be difficult because of my work are here,” he said.

Grecia Enjoys Rapid Growth: City Hall collected ¢60 million in building permit taxes for 2005 and according to the 2000 census, the population of Grecia county is 65,119 inhabitants.

Homes: There are 17,586 individual dwellings in Grecia according to the 2000 census and “City Hall is encouraging orderly development of the county.” (Freddy Barrantes, mayor) but of course investors will have to comply with the regulations.

Our thanks to our friends at La Nacion – Costa Rica’s largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use their article in English…

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