For Ingo Schirrmann, a German television producer, a hastily planned New Year’s holiday in Uruguay has turned into a new lifestyle. In December 2012, almost on a whim, he canceled his tickets to Courchevel, France, and flew to Punta del Este, on the Uruguayan coast. The beaches of South America seemed more exotic, not to say warmer, than the slopes of the French Alps, he recalls.
He headed straight for José Ignacio, a bohemian-chic peninsula about 20 miles east of downtown Punta, and had a great time – big enough to buy land near the ocean and eventually build a Modernist house there, designed by famous local architect Martín Gómez. Mr Schirrmann, who was based in Hamburg, intended to use the house during the southern hemisphere summer, but when he started spending time at José Ignacio he was won over by its atmosphere. slow and friendly. The pandemic cemented his decision to make it his primary residence.
“Five years ago, if you told me I would live in a small village, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “What makes José Ignacio special are the people who come here. It’s easy to connect with like-minded people from different parts of the world, and it’s all super laid back.
José Ignacio is indeed a small village of less than a square kilometer. It is also the most cosmopolitan corner of Uruguay. In recent years, this once-little-known fishing enclave has become a magnet for affluent globetrotters with a taste for rusticity. Like Mr. Schirrmann, Europeans and Americans who travel to the Uruguayan coast during the holidays end up buying second homes there, joining a growing group of South American residents.
There is a famous beach restaurant, La Huella, which invariably delights customers with its fire-grilled seafood and weathered wood decor. There are gravel streets dotted with Instagram-friendly shops. Most importantly, there are expansive beaches, open skies, and no reminder of the stresses of modern life. Proximity to Punta del Este, a larger, more urban resort, is both a convenience and an afterthought.
“The coast of Uruguay is an international meeting point,” said Alejandro Perazzo, a real estate agent affiliated with Sotheby’s International Realty. “For foreign buyers, this country has a lot of advantages over the rest of the region. The rules of the game don’t change here no matter who is in government, and that predictability is appealing. It is also safe.
Mr. Perazzo compared Uruguay to its neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, two countries with a history of political and economic upheaval. Argentines and Brazilians have been spending the summer in Punta del Este and José Ignacio for decades. But lately, given Uruguay’s stability and the announcement of tax breaks for foreign investors, many are staying longer. (Applications for permanent residence in Uruguay by Argentines, for example, tripled last year to nearly 10,000 applications, according to local media.)
The real estate market is therefore buzzing, especially when it comes to luxury residences with inspiring views. In and around José Ignacio, a series of upscale (but suitably underrated) beachfront developments are underway.
Ten kilometers from José Ignacio, in a hamlet known as Manantiales, Argentinian fashion designer and real estate developer Federico Álvarez Castillo recently unveiled La Colette, a waterfront condominium with a minimalist aesthetic in concrete and glass. To blend in with the bucolic environment – grassy dunes, pine forests and stone-walled chalets – Mr. Álvarez Castillo designed four low-rise buildings separated by green courtyards. There are 42 units, starting at $ 1.3 million for a 1,600-square-foot three-bedroom, overlooking a seemingly endless beach.
Mr. lvarez Castillo also splurged on high quality materials like Italian marble, German lighting fixtures and Brazilian lapacho wood, but he showed some restraint when planning the building amenities. His idea was to keep expenses under $ 2,000 a month per unit (there’s an outdoor pool and a small gym, but not much else).
“A lot of our buyers have other homes and they wanted low maintenance costs,” he said. “What they like about this region is the space, the proximity to the ocean and the neighborhood vibe.”
Unlike Punta del Este, where the skyline is higher and higher (the new Fendi Chateau residences, a complex of four buildings, culminating at 27 floors), José Ignacio and its surroundings have strict building codes aimed at preserve the environment as well as the rural identity of the region (buildings cannot exceed 20 feet). In a time when people around the world are rethinking city life, the promise of eternal hardiness coupled with great taste is very appealing – and it comes at a price.
Waterfront lots, which are becoming scarce, can cost $ 150 per square foot, far more than similar lots in the less fashionable coastal areas of Uruguay. A house built by an established local architect starts at $ 200 per square foot. Mr. Gómez recently completed a 5,000 square foot residence built on the sand dunes of Playa Mansa, known for its spectacular sunsets. Including the land, it cost around $ 4 million.
There are still opportunities to be found. In La Juanita, a slowly developing rugged neighborhood just a mile west of the village, plots about 900 feet from the beach cost between $ 30 and $ 40 per square foot.
But many buyers, especially foreigners, may not want to overlook a single-story construction or deal with the logistics of maintaining the home. The next Costa Garzón offers both custom-designed homes and condominium-style services such as housekeeping, landscaping and more. Designed by Alejandro Bulgheroni, an Argentinian energy mogul who has a nearby championship golf course and an award-winning winery, Costa Garzón is poised to be the most exclusive development in the region, if not in the entire country. .
Located on José Ignacio’s Playa Brava and just a five-minute drive from the village center, this collection of oceanfront plots – ranging from 12,000 to 16,000 square feet and starting at $ 1.7 million – comes with a range of extras, including membership to Garzón Tajamares Golf Club and Bodega Garzón Wine Club (where members can create their own wines using varietals from one of Mr. Bulgheroni in Uruguay, California, Italy, France and Australia.). There will be a beach house with a sit-down restaurant as well as a beachside dining option called El Chiringuito de Mallmann (named after its famous Argentinian chef, Francis Mallmann), which opened in 2020. For to build their home, buyers can hire Costa Garzón’s team or bring in their own architect, provided the design meets certain aesthetic guidelines.
Although Mr. Bulgheroni undoubtedly addresses the jet set, he is aware of the importance of respecting the pastoral style of the region. “I think this place will continue to attract more people, but it was never intended for formal people; it’s relaxed and it’s bucolic.