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In Tahiti, I told him, I had experienced the ultimate disillusionment: a traffic jam at one o'clock in the morning in the center of Papeete. Every resort trumpets that it is the finest of all, but mostly they express themselves in volumes of ticky-tacky and artificial stimulants. In nearly all cases the natural beauty is sucked out of them by development.
"I have seen your—Puerto Rico's—El Conquistador. It is lavish. It has flashy shops and $7.50 luncheon buffets and a cable car to the beach, and out front there is always a jam of cars. I didn't like it."
"At Palmas, we will not have that," Padilla said. "Every area is controlled, and each will have to live up to the highest standards."
The lot buyers and vacationers, he said, would be equally protected from undesirable land use. A gas station will not rise in a residential area; neon will not flash on Candelero Point. But more than that, deed restrictions and protective covenants demand low-silhouette, homogeneous buildings and the maintenance of "permanent open spaces."
The beaches of Puerto Rico are public domain, so developers cannot divide them up and seal them off as they did along Collins Avenue. Where Palmas will shine, Padilla said, was in the guaranteeing of views, and in the maintenance of natural beauties such as the 60-acre tropical forest on the northeast side of the property. Palmas does not build homes, he said, but it is selective on what constitutes a responsible builder. The restrictions do not seem to have hurt sales. (Marketing began in September 1972; by September of '73, 166 villas were under contract, 100 under binder, and there were 475 property owners, mostly from Puerto Rico and the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.)
"We do not think of this as a 'development,' " he went on. "We are trying to get away from words like 'development' and into words like 'experiences.' A sequence of experiences. The secret with the automobile is to control the traffic outside, so that pedestrians can mingle unimpeded inside."
He found a place on the map with his index finger, a distant parking area that he said would hold 1,200 cars. "Here," he said, pointing to Cala de Palmas, the harbor village. "No cars allowed. Here [the villa area around the inn]. No cars. For these you will have to walk or, to travel around, an electric cart will be available. Or a bicycle."
He looked back at his own stricken vehicle.
"The automobile, of course, is the villain. I wish that we could leave all the roads natural, but this is a large area and there have to be accesses and movement and, as you can see, the weather can be rough on dirt roads. We will have to spread some tarmac around. But we are committed to the terrain. A minimum of earth movement. A slope remains a slope. Roads wind. Trees stay."
He was being proud, and accurate. Evidence of enlightened development had been easy to find at Palmas, even in the rackety welter of construction. No building was over three stories. Even in the special areas, such as the tennis village, which will have clusters of hillside villas and 40 courts, the density will be strictly controlled. The first 70 units of the tennis village have already been sold—one-, two-, three-bedroom condominiums, with 25 distinct floor plans, priced from $38,500 to $118,000. Some of the units have separate rentable bedrooms for $40.