Christo, the famous wrapping artist, would surely have loved it. A huge black fabric covering an entire block of new apartments dropped down with the precision of a stage curtain during the official opening of The Soul residential resort in Paje a few weeks ago. When the curtain fell, a dozen new homeowners from Tanzania, Kenya, UAE and from as far as the US and Canada ran towards the building to examine and take over their African investment. “It’s so beautiful, I don’t want to live anywhere else”, exclaimed an African-American lady from Panama, who said she is planning to spend her retirement in Zanzibar.
The paint has not yet dried on the facade, ten more apartment blocks and a huge man-made lagoon are still in the making, but for Zanzibar, the holiday complex in the hinterland of kite-surfing hotspot Paje, only about 300 metre walking distance to the beach, is already making history. It is an entirely new player within the tourism landscape. The first-ever residential resort on the island offers holiday apartments for sale. The first residential leisure facility falling under a new condominium law entitling foreigners to buy property on the island. And thirdly, it implements environment-friendly wood technology still rarely used in multi-storey buildings. “Zanzibar is propelling itself into the ranks of leading timber builders all over the world with this project”, says Thomas Just, 45, owner of Volks.house, the company constructing The Soul.
“This feels like home”
With its modern, all-white look, industrial-type black window- and door frames and many timber elements, The Soul resort will eventually consist of eleven terraced three- and-a-half storey buildings, each with about twenty apartments, making it a total of 240 fully serviced holiday apartments. Well-equipped flats with built-in-kitchens and wardrobes range in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom. Kids get built-in bunk beds. Global nomads eco-working spaces on rooftops, kiters their surfboard garages and all globetrotters together an organic restaurant. “This already feels like home” commented some of the new owners during the opening.
Properly managed, wood is a fully renewable resource. Volks.house company, which employs more than 80 carpenters and other workers in Zanzibar, uses prefabricated timber frames for the house structure and cross-laminated timber (CLT) for the ceilings at The Soul, expert Just explained. Only the foundation and the staircases are made of concrete for stabilisation and to keep termites away. Extensive fire tests have proven the wooden structure to be as fireproof as concrete. Another huge advantage is the prefabrication which minimises constructing mishaps.
The Soul is expected to be completed by the end of next year. Only a handful of units are still available. “We were literally overrun with interest”, says Milan Heilmann, 31, the site manager. “The Soul stands for beach-life, freestyle, leisure-oriented living. Among our buyers are young entrepreneurs, surfers and people looking for a second home or an investment.”
Apartments from $75,900
Apartment prices range from at $ 75,900 for a one-bedroom, ideal for a single or a couple, to $163,900 for a three-bedroom holiday flat. “Where in the world can you get a property near the beach for that money”, Milan Heilmann said.
The leisure complex is the brainchild and development of CPS, a German led company also building Zanzibar’s first eco city Fumba Town near the capital, and Dutch entrepreneur Rick Viezee. The Africa veteran who first came to Zanzibar in 1959 when there was no tourism at all, is quite a popular figure in Holland, has crossed the Sahara several times and started trans-Africa overland tours in his home country, before developing one of the biggest travel agencies of the Netherlands. The 75-year old adventurer loves Paje, for him “the right place at the right time.”
For all the partners involved in bringing The Soul to fruition, environmental solidity and community involvement play an important role, they stressed. “Green is a currency for us”, Dietzold said: “In Tanzania we need more than 300,000 new homes every year. We need to change the way we build in the future, whether in urban developments or in leisure projects.“ A growing number of holiday-makers, that’s for sure, are eager to minimise their carbon footprint. The Soul will help them.