Dutch investor Gerard Doedee started to search for land in Romania in 2007, when the country joined the EU. He had visited a friend in Cluj-Napoca, and discovered a country he didn’t know much about, but which he came to like.
Doedee (pictured below), who changed his 23-year career path from human resources and leadership development to real estate in 2007, searched the web to find other potential investors. This is how he came across Mark Koops, who had been already doing some investments in Romania. They commissioned two Romanians, Lucian Andrei and Horia Halmagi, for a land search.
The two Romanians, who later became partners in the project, drafted a shortlist, and Vama Buzaului in central Romania was one of the proposals.
The village is located 45 km away from Brasov, at the foothills of the Ciucas Mountains. Its main touristic attraction is the Urlatoarea (Screaming) waterfall.
Vama Buzaului is aspiring to become a touristic attraction. The village’s website welcomes visitors with the words of the 39-year old mayor Tiberiu Nicolae Chirilas. “I will fight so that Vama Buzaului can become one of the most beautiful and known places in the country and not only.”
Before going into real estate, Gerard Doedee had executive jobs in the leadership development and human resources field for 23 years. He had worked for big companies such as Fokker Aircraft, Fuji Photo Film, Vodafone and France Telecom/Casema. In 2007, Gerard took on a different challenge. He started to invest in real estate in Brazil, as well as in Spain and Italy.
He learned very early that plain real estate is not his cup of tea. He needed something “more complex” to work on. That’s where the story of his current project Valley 21 begins.
In Vama Buzaului, Gerard Doedee and Mark Koops plan to develop a real estate project with 68 houses on a plot of 40 hectares, as well as a wellness hotel on a 28-hectare plot, all by the end of 2020. The Dutch investors signed a public-private partnership with the local municipality of Vama Buzaului, and will invest some EUR 15 million in the development. “When we signed the joint venture with the municipality we attracted other investors from Holland to finance the project,” says Doedee. The investors got the right to use the 68-ha land for 100 years, with the possibility to prolong it, Gerard adds.
“It’s a long time. And our part of the deal is that we develop. We bring the investors. (We create) The project. And also, together with the municipality, we brand the location,” he adds.The city hall will get 10% of the profit, according to the deal.
Doedee doesn’t see Valley 21 as a real estate development, but as a project within a bigger development, within the location development of Vama Buzaului.
“(Vama Buzaului ) It’s a place that is very pristine, with a lot of values that at least in Western Europe you can’t find anymore. We created a vision about that area, we discussed with the municipality, we started a collaboration and a joint venture with a common objective, to make (an) eco-touristic destination over there,” he says.
It was a matter of creating trust in the relationship with the municipality. There was a year-long negotiation process, but not about “the figures”, or how much the municipality will get, but rather about the conditions of the contract: how the investors will use the land. “When they bring 68 hectares and we only build one house, we don’t bring anything, it’s not a good deal.”
The municipality and the Dutch investors want to create a low-density, but a high-quality agro-touristic destination.
The compound houses will be green houses, designed by the Italian architect Luca Fornaroli. A part of the house will be in the ground. This creates a special relationship with the environment, but also allows for intimacy and reduces the sight to the neighbors, Doedee explains.
The first house was already built and is up for sale. A combination of minimalism and luxury, it has a floor area of 118 sqm, three bedrooms, an upstairs living room with fireplace and terrace. Houses ranging from 92 sqm to 118 sqm will cost between EUR 167,000 and EUR 285,000.
The project draws on the concept of second homes or holiday homes, which is not very popular in Romania yet. However, Gerard Doedee is confident that Romanians will take a liking for this type of projects, either for living in them or for renting them. He expects that about 60% of the buyers will be Romanians and 40% will be internationals.
Doedee believes that there won’t be any gap between the village itself where farmers live and Valley 21, that will be a sort of high-class, gated community. The project will help the area develop, he says. “When you market the location and is well-known, tourists come, so other investors will also come to start a bar or another type of business.”
By Diana Mesesan, features writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
(photos courtesy of Valley 21)