Emilio Izquierdo Aims to Turn MARAEY into the Best Sustainable Tourist and Residential Development in Brazil

Emilio Izquierdo gives an overview of MARAEY, the upcoming mixed-use development to be built in Maricá, Rio de Janeiro. He also talks about the latest news related to the project and shares his vision to turn MARAEY into the best sustainable tourist and residential development in Brazil.

Interview with Emilio Izquierdo, CEO of MARAEY

Emilio Izquierdo, CEO of MARAEY

MARAEY is a sustainable tourist and residential development and the first mixed-use development in all of South America to achieve SITES Gold certification. Could you tell us more about this project and what it is going to bring, not only to Rio de Janeiro, but Brazil as a whole?

The vision that we have is to turn the MARAEY project into the best sustainable tourist and residential development, not only in Brazil but also Latin America, and be one of the best in the world in this category. The highlight of this project is the location, as we acquired this incredible piece of land in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro within the metropolitan area. We are talking about 840 hectares of land with 8.5 kilometers of beach front, and 12 kilometers of lagoon shore. Besides these attributes, we are very proud to say that we have designed and worked very hard on this project in order to turn MARAEY into the best tourist destination in the region, and a new residential area for the city of Rio de Janeiro that is absolutely unique.

From a tourist perspective, we have worked with several consultants in order to define a unique proposal. We are currently in the licensing process for four hotels, which have already been approved in the master plan. And we aim to start the construction of three of the four hotels at the beginning of 2023. One of the hotels is a high end European and all-inclusive proposal, with 462 rooms with brand new residences. The second hotel is an eco-luxury boutique hotel with 58 villas and 80 apartments on the beach front. The third hotel is an all-inclusive with 912 keys. We have an agreement for this hotel with Rock in Rio in order to launch the first Rock in Rio hotel in the city of Rio de Janeiro. And the fourth hotel is a golf hotel with 118 keys and around 160 branded residences.

What is interesting is that these hotels have four complimentary value propositions and experiences for the guests. The idea is that they will bring over 300,000 direct tourists every year within MARAEY. Based on several studies, when you create a new tourist destination for every direct tourist, there is 0.5 indirect tourists. So that means our project will bring over 300,000 direct tourists and another 150,000 indirect tourists every year to the area. This is incredible, not only for our city of Maricá, but also for the city of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the state of Rio de Janeiro, and the whole country of Brazil. Based on several analysis, this is going to have a tremendous economic impact. From a social perspective, we are in the process of implementing training programs to train people from the region. So we are going to train and hire thousands of employees from the local communities. It is going to have an outstanding impact on the local population as well.


On the other hand, besides the tourist destination, we have close to 9,000 residential units approved in our master plan, not only residential units with villas, duplex houses, apartments, and different typologies, but different services attached to this new residential destination. For example, we have a shopping center, a school, a university and a hospital. So the idea is that MARAEY is going to become a new residential destination within the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro, and this is all based on very few but very strong principles, one of them being sustainability.

Everyone talks about sustainability, but in our case, we have been committed to environmental protection since the beginning over 12 years ago. For example, we established the second largest private natural reserve of autonomous vegetation in the state of Rio de Janeiro and the fifth largest in Brazil. We have constituted and will launch an environmental research center as well, together with five universities and two NGOs.

We also have a community of fishermen – 200 families living in the area – who are going to receive property titles for the houses they do not have currently. And we are going to brand this property titles together with all the infrastructure of the project in terms of electricity, water, sewage treatment, etc.

Everything we do in our project is based on excellence. That is why we received SITES Gold last year, which is the highest certification for new real estate developments in terms of infrastructure. We also received the 2021 Leadership Award from the US Green Building Council, because of our commitment with excellence and the positive impact that we are going to bring to local communities. We were also the first private project in the world to be granted with the BIOSPHERE certification, the most important certification for sustainable tourist destinations. This excellence is proven not only in the infrastructure project that we are about to implement in the following weeks, but also all the designs for the buildings, the hotels, the shopping center, the residential units, the hospital, etc. And those are the principles that lead our work, environmental protection, social impact, and extraordinary quality.


At what stage are you in terms of your search for investors?

We have already overcome the greatest challenge, which was the whole process of licensing this incredible project and securing the juridical feasibility of the master plan. So that whole process has taken us over 12 years. Once we obtain the construction license, once we start with the infrastructure work, once we prove to the world that we have already started with the construction of this project, and it becomes a reality, we will be presenting MARAEY to the world. There is no mixed-use development like this in the world, because of the fundamentals, as we are located 42 kilometers away from the airport of Rio de Janeiro, the beauty of the land, the incredible characteristics, etc.

Rio de Janeiro is the flagship of Brazil, it is one of those cities that comes to everyone’s mind, just like New York or Paris. Our tourist proposition is outstanding. From a residential perspective, we have 9,000 homes approved in the urban area and 2.2 million people living in the surrounding area, 25 to 30 kilometers away from our project. Based on our internal studies and external sources, we know that around 15,000 families with purchasing power are aiming to buy a house within the next 12 months. If we start with the selling process of our apartments, villas and duplex houses now, we know that the strong demand is going to absorb all the products that we launch. So those fundamentals are there, the licenses, the permits and the juridical feasibility are in place. We have already overcome these two extremely difficult years of pandemic. We are starting with the construction process, and it is time for us to tell the world what MARAEY means and get attention from international investors, not only for MARAEY, but for Brazil as well. Brazil is an outstanding and an incredible country. It has tremendous potential.

And for international investors who want to put their money into real estate, either it is for a mixed-use development like ours, for a hotel or for a residential development, we have something incredible to offer them after 12 years of hard work. A good part of my work now is focused on bringing attention to the project. Tomorrow, I’m going to New York. Two weeks ago I was in Dubai. I was at MIPIM in Cannes a few weeks ago. Later on, I am going to Miami, to Singapore, to London, to Madrid, because there is a lot of cash availability in the market. There is a lot of money and there is a lack of very good projects. We have this objective of bringing investors into this new phase. So far, for 12 years, everything has been about equity and our own investment in order to get to this new stage. This is one of our main goals. But another main goal, of course, is to execute the works, the infrastructure and the buildings, the way we have planned them, based on sustainability, quality and energy efficiency, and to continue working on strategic partnerships that will continue consolidating MARAEY as one of a kind mixed-use development in the world.


Are the investors coming to invest in hotels or are they coming to invest in real estate? Are they coming to invest in the shopping center, the university, the research center? What are the immediate investors that you are looking for?

From a residential perspective, we are already discussing. So we are talking to the main players, residential developers, shopping operators, international and national schools, and hospital operators. We are talking to the best in class in Brazil. That part of the management and investment will be mainly dealt within the country. From a hospitality perspective, we already have the proposals from some of the best brands in the world. We will close very soon. In two to three months, we will have these negotiations already closed. And from an investor’s perspective to international investment funds or qualified money, we are discussing about the possibility of joining us in the development of the hotels. We are also open to bringing them into the mother company. We do not want to close doors. We are in this process of talking to the best in class and see how we can reach win-win negotiations and agreements. We are already offering them the opportunity, and I am very happy of the preliminary responses. I travel and I have had the opportunity throughout these past years to know the big players, but I never negotiated with them because it was not our time. Now, because of everything from a juridical consolidation, licensing permits, beginning of the construction works, etc., it is time for us to negotiate with these players. So let us see how these conversations and some others to come will evolve throughout the following months. I am extremely confident that we will reach agreements, both with national qualified investors and international investors.

Do you think that the future election in Brazil will have an impact on your activities?

No, not in our case. Although the pre-electoral period always brings some uncertainty and some investors put on hold their decision-making, I do not foresee that it will have an impact, especially because 2022 is a year of consolidation of our infrastructure works and we will advance with these negotiations with investment funds. Brazil has been getting a lot of attention from international money in the past months. The stock market has shown a positive performance and the reality is that this has appreciated as well. From an objective standpoint, I do not think the international market is too worried about the elections. If it is not a problem for the international market, obviously it is not a problem for us.

What will your ideal scenario be in 10 years-time? Can you project yourself to a very long-term vision?

We are working to leave a legacy for several generations. MARAEY aims at establishing something unique from a residential and a tourist standpoint, but also from an environmental and social standpoint. In 10 years-time, I would like to see that at least 99% of the 400 specific actions that we have defined in MARAEY’s ESG 2030 agenda have become a reality. This is a 360 degrees project in the sense that we are creating a new city or a new neighborhood, and a new tourist destination. So we have the ability and the responsibility to impact in all the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Based on those goals, we have detailed up to 400 specific actions linked to each and every one of those goals. My dream is that we turn all those actions into a reality, so by 2032, MARAEY has already established an incredible footprint from an economic, social and environmental standpoint.

What is your inspiration and philosophy in life?

I am a very optimistic person. I have a lot of energy and passion in everything I do. I guide myself with certain principles that I learned from my father in the way I perceive personal and professional life. I am loyal to my people. I try to do honest and hard work, and I work and live with passion. My goal is to feel proud and happy with what we do, enjoy life and live with no regrets.


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