Raising the dead: Harbour House Aruba and the evolution of Waf Chiquito

Than place was dead. Abandoned. All you saw was broken glass and barbwire, pigeons too. It was a monument to the financial failure of the former Mar Azul Condominiums and Marina Mall parent company, by two local jewels, I believe. They decided to diversify into real estate without knowing anything about that field of expertise. The result? A massive half-baked development on Weststraat, waiting for redemption, a savior, for many, many years.

Then in 2018, after looking at that embarrassing state of affairs, developer Albert Perret Gentil decided to make a cautious move, but then jumped head first, seeing the potential of the waterfront.

Yesterday, we were invited to an intimate, no nonsense opening. The new Harbour House is starting to show its beauty, and the promise to revive that entire area, a previously neglected gem.

The complex has undergone a clever repositioning. Instead of facing Weststraat, as its main mall entrance, the new layout calls for charming shopping and dining on the ocean side, along a spacious promenade, as an extension of the Green Corridor, showcasing the beauty of the Oranjestad harbor, cruise ships to the right, a bustling boulevard to the left.

Perret Gentil came prepared, having walked the construction via dolorosa at Blue & Azul Condominiums. But he is modest, he credits his brother with the brilliant idea to place the parking garage under the building and elevate the infinity pool, a la Renaissance in Curacao, for a more functional and dramatic use of the space.

It was a genius idea, and last night guests enjoyed the twinkling light vista it created.

I wrote about this project before, I attended some shop openings there, in past decades, Gilbert Senchi even operated an art gallery downstairs, friends almost bought condos; I also lamented unfortunate closings – especially that of a stylish Italian restaurant, what was its name?

With the project fully facing the water, seven harbor shops were made available for rent to reputable and experienced high-end F&B and retail experts.

Chef-owned Lima Bistro opened last week, with talented Teddy Bouroncle in the kitchen, and it lives up to the promise to serve the best food on the island. The gorgeous restaurant is co-designed by Chef Teddy and designer Veronia Van de Dys.

I hear a fantastic rumor that Yemanja Wood Grill, with chef Joyce Huske, might be moving in as well, but don’t believe everything you read.

Perret-Gentil trusts it will take a while to find synergy, with other fine retailers and businesses, but he is confident that Weststaat, once a swinging nightlife center, will find a successful formula, perhaps a la WynWood, Miami, and he relies on the owners of neighboring real estate, and APA, as well as Stichting Rancho, the fishermen, and the souvenir vendors of the Waf to come together for a comprehensive urban revival plan of the area.

Harbour House offers 96 units, from studios to 4-bedroom residences, up seven stories, on-site parking, 24-hours security, boat service to the beach, top floor solarium with hot tub, food & beverage, a swanky lobby, a fitness center, and the rooftop with 360 degree views of the island.

Best of all, you’re welcome to move in, soon.

Perret Gentil remarks that an eclectic group of architects, designers and engineers were required to transform the unfortunately bankrupt prime piece of downtown real estate, but it’s done. And we should be proud of the rescue plan, breathing new life into Waf Chiquito.

His company, almost sold out Blue & AZUL tower, on Eagle beach, he said, and is ready to invest all its energy in downtown Oranjestad.


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June 11, 2021
Rona Coster