New York developer to invest $108 million in Puerto Rico apartment-commercial project

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's government on Thursday announced the construction of a $108 million real estate project as the island tries to emerge from a nearly decade-long economic slump with help from U.S. investors.

New York developer Nicholas Prouty, who recently moved to the U.S. territory, said his firm will build 252 new apartments as part of the third phase of a mixed-use complex considered the largest in Puerto Rico. His Putnam Bridge Holding LLC also will build 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters) of commercial space, among other things.

The original developers of the Ciudadela complex in the gritty Santurce neighborhood of Puerto Rico's capital declared bankruptcy several years ago as the island's economy slumped, but the complex has since flourished in part because of generous tax credits and incentives. Ciudadela has sold all of its 312 apartment units, and several businesses have established themselves there as well, including a grocery store and a New Hampshire-based gym franchise.

The third phase is expected to open by mid-2017.

"There are so many misconceptions that need to be addressed," Prouty said of Puerto Rico. "The turnaround of Puerto Rico will be the result of very hard work. It will have nothing to do with destiny."

Prouty said his company also will build a $6 million public park between Ciudadela and the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, an area that has long served as a rundown parking lot. Nonprofit groups and residents are expected to help maintain the park.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the investment will create more than 1,000 jobs and urged others to follow Prouty's lead.

"He symbolizes the new Puerto Rican," Garcia said. "We need more people like you, with your vision."

The economy of the U.S. territory is entering its eighth year in recession and its government is struggling with $73 billion in public debt. Garcia's administration has pushed to attract more high-end investors, with New York hedge fund billionaire John Paulson making several high-profile purchases on the island, including upscale resorts and land parcels for future development.

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