Juan Balsa founded his first business at the age of nineteen. Seven years ago he bought a home and land in a gated community in the area known as Camino de Los Horneros thirty minutes from Montevideo. Community services were pretty poor, so he set up an association to bring them up to scratch. The kind of guy who takes things one step further, not only did he build houses and roads, he also founded a bilingual primary school (because there wasn’t one close by. It’s actually a branch of his old alma mater, founded over 70 years ago—touches like this kill me). Juan lives in the ‘barrios’—as they call the collective gated communities in the area—with his wife and three small children. Down-to-earth and super friendly, Juan loves his early morning walks with a couple of neighbours. It speaks volumes that a real estate developer lives and works in his community.
Quality and sustainability
Balsa & Asociados has two priorities. The first is the development of the area of Camino de Los Horneros. They believe they can only do their best if they maintain a laser focus on the area within a three-kilometre (just under two-mile) radius of their offices. They want to be able to visit all sites within a day. And they want to be there in a jiffy if there’s a problem.
The second is that everything they work on—the homes, the services, the existing community, education—is quality and sustainable. Balsa is the first developer I’ve seen in Uruguay marketing from an angle they call “bio intelligent”. Their first real estate development, Pilar de los Horneros, focuses on being 100% solar powered. The houses will generate what they consume and most will return power to the National Grid.
They opted for the term ‘bio intelligent’ because they believe for most buyers, the feel-good factor is not enough to opt for a greener home. For this to be truly sustainable it also needs to save buyers money. The sustainability then becomes a no brainer. This is a new area in Uruguay, and Balsa recognises they have much to learn. Currently, the company is in exploration of construction materials which produce zero emissions.
Balsa says they want to be remembered in 20 years time as the people who did things right by urban development in Canelones.
What’s close by Camino de los Horneros
The developments are located in an up-and-coming area. One which is gaining in value in part because ‘barrios privados’ are of interest to private investors and, what interests me most, because of its location, near:
- The airport
- Free trade areas – Zonamerica and the Science Park (where Google is installing a data centre)
- Local amenities (a short drive) include three shopping centres, healthcare, schools and sports facilities
- Ciudad de la Costa – Uruguay’s second largest urban area (fringe-lined with beaches)
- Montevideo, 40 mins to the centre
- The sleepy beaches of the Costa de Oro coast and vineyards