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April 4, 2006
  • DATE opens in Punta Cana
  • Puerto Plata boulevard facelift
  • 50 years in Dominican baseball
  • New Yorker magazine on Playa Grande
DATE opens in Punta Cana
The Dominican Annual Travel Exchange, the leading travel booking event for the Dominican Republic, opens Wednesday, 5 April in Punta Cana on the east coast. The three-day event will be held at Paradisus Palma Real's brand new convention area. The event brings together hoteliers and buying tour operators.
Puerto Plata boulevard facelift
President Leonel Fernandez was in Puerto Plata on Saturday for the ribbon-cutting of Puerto Plata's revamped seafront avenue, the malecon. The government announced that a RD$307 million investment was made to repave the five-kilometer long Atlantic ocean boulevard. 450 light posts were installed to make the avenue attractive for night strolls. The improvements also included brand new sidewalks and 2.8 kilometers of concrete benches with capacity for 5,000 persons. Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez said that the government has plans to build five kilometers of beach, to emulate Rio de Janeiro.
50 years in Dominican baseball
The 2006 Major League Baseball championship that opened on Sunday, 2 April in the United States marks the 50th year that Dominican baseball players have played in the league. 72 year old Osvaldo Jose Virgil Pichardo was the trailblazer for Dominicans, debuting in the Major League on 26 September 1956, wearing the New York Giants uniform. His first hit for the team took place on 30 September, when he batted for a double and two singles. He was allowed to play in three games and had 12 chances at bats, placing five hits for a .417 average. Bienvenido Rojas, sports editor for Diario Libre, points out that since then 420 Dominicans have played in the Major Leagues.
To coincide with the 50th year of Dominicans in Major League Baseball, the film "The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game" premiered on 19 March marking the occasion of the finals of the World Baseball Classic. Dominican ambassador Flavio Espinal and many of the pioneering players were there for the premiere.
See http://www.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/emailArticleServlet?aid=887657
New Yorker magazine on Playa Grande
An article in the 20th March edition of New Yorker magazine focuses on the initial plans by the new owners of Playa Grande for the development of what many call the country's most spectacular golf course and adjacent beach and cliffs surrounding properties. 40-year old Boykin Curry, who bought the property from the Central Bank for US$50 million, talks about establishing a "Creative Person's Utopia". "We are going to keep it Bohemian, not filled with dentists who got lucky on the stock market," Curry explained in one pitch letter.
"Except for the golf course, the 2,200 acre plot nearly three times the size of Central Park was unspoiled," tells the New Yorker story, also providing the detail that the property extends about five miles along the coast and is flanked by a nudist colony and a Rochester doctor's retirement mansion. The New Yorker writer describes Curry's vision: "a ... 21st century, jet-setting variety, in which golf, a game he does not play, could be used to subsidize an artists' colony and other noble pursuits. Curry's enthusiasms include organic subsistence farming, environmental conservation, and entomology. According to his interior designer friend, Kemble, they are imagining a classical Athenian village - updated - in which four-star restaurants and art galleries could share street space with locally run fish shacks and pool halls; with great public plazas, where Op-Ed columnists like David Brooks and Thomas Friedman might gather to discuss anti-terrorism strategy with fellow investors foreign-policy whiz Fareed Zakaria and television interviewer Charlie Rose, and then join musician and eco-activist Moby and his friend Michael Stipe for a concert on the beach, followed by a nightcap with Matthew Barney, the "Cremaster" artist, observing the migration of the humpback whales, headed east to spawn near Samana.
The New Yorker mentions that Curry hopes to persuade the government to reroute the North Coast highway behind the property line. This would leave the beach entirely within the property. The New Yorker article says President Fernandez has already lent his moral support, at least, to the rerouting of the highway.
Investor Fareed Zakaria told the New Yorker writer that he was attracted to the Dominican Republic as a potential tropical alternative. "I've never liked Florida, to begin with. It's basically not that attractive and not that warm," he said. "So if you go an hour further..."
Ben McGrath writes in The New Yorker that he saw "signs that the D.R. may finally be approaching Next Hot Destination status." Curry's friend George Mueller, an L.E.D.-lighting entrepreneur and one of the twenty "founding residents" of Playa Grande, had spotted a familiar face in first class on his flight down; it turned out to be Donatella Versace, who was staying at a new resort just west of Puerto Plata airport.
The New Yorker describes the crowd that Curry will attract as "a Hamptons-going crowd and offered to them the DR as an alternate A-list weekend refuge "the new Hamptons" or "like the Hamptons were in the 70s." Others in the crowd of first come to see Playa Grande included the New York Giants lineman Michael Strahan; the fashion-world scion Alex von Furstenberg; a former U.N. official, Nader Mousavizadeh; a couple of actors (Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, from "Law & Order: S.V.U."); Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University; and a New Jersey billboard executive named Drew Katz, according to the New Yorker story.
Curry hired landscape architects Hart Howerton and so far the idea is to offer four main geographical components two of them more pragmatic than idealistic. New Yorker reports that for avid golfers, villas will be built to accompany the course at the west end; a luxury boutique hotel, operated by the Singapore-based chain Aman Resorts, will occupy the property's eastern edge. On the higher ground between them will be farms, an equestrian center, a science research facility, and a nature reserve. The artists' colony, for a hundred artists in all, will be closer to the central beach village: twenty-five bungalows sold as quarter shares, at a steep discount-about fifty thousand dollars. By "artist," Curry means "anyone who does something that's intellectually interesting that doesn't pay very well."
Meanwhile there is good news for Cabrera, the largest town near Playa Grande. Curry decided to help with a project promoted by Major Jorge Cavoli to build a promenade and endow an ongoing performance program every Friday evening. The plan is to "mix high and low, with classical music and outdoor films alternating each week with Dominican and pop bands.
New Yorker magazine also reported that Curry closed on the purchase of the Occidental hotel that overlooks the beach and that he plans to tear the property down this spring.

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