Punta Cana Attracts Real Estate Dollars With Celebrity Investors

Oscar de la Renta, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Julio Iglesias living on a Dominican Republic golf course: Sort of sounds like a punchline for a "what do you get when you have..." kind of joke. But it's actually a marketing dream team that's put Dominican Republic real estate on the purchasing map.

These multimillionaires (who happen to be friends) joined forces to do what really rich people (who already top their industries) do second or third best: invest in real estate.

It's what Billy Joel, Sean Combs and "The Real Housewives of New York City" do for East Hampton. Or what Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Shiloh did for Namibia. And even what Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Jennifer Aniston and her dog Norman do when they vacation together in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

In this case the investment properties are in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic -- the most eastern and most recently developed part of the island -- and the location of the real estate that the celebrities have loaned their name to: Corales.

Corales, with the exclusivity of the few who are accepted, is quite the idyllic place to call a second or third home. Dominican-born De la Renta, pictured below, relocated from Casa del Campo after his wife, Annette, grew tired of looking out their kitchen and seeing hordes of tourists soaking up the sun.

Punta Cana's mega-developing duo, Frank Rainieri and Ted Kheel, who created the Puntacana Resort & Club some 40 years ago, approached the designer about buying into the undeveloped (and uninhabitable at the time) stretch of coastline that was debris-filled jungle. This launched De la Renta's other career as a real estate mogul. Iglesias, also an investor, got the hookup via his best friend, De la Renta, who called the Spanish singing sensation, excited to say: "Finally, we can be neighbors!" Apparently Iglesias and De la Renta are "like brothers" and always wanted to have houses on the beach right next to each other.

Baryshnikov was the last to join the global residential synergy. He had been invited by De la Renta to perform for the designer's children's charity in Santo Domingo. Following the event, De la Renta invited the ballet dancer to relax afterward at his new home in Punta Cana. Baryshnikov, in turn, fell in love with the resort town.

"I already liked the Dominican people and culture, living here in New York; then I discovered how Punta Cana is special," Baryshnikov told HousingWatch at the Baryshnikov Art Center in Manhattan. De la Renta, Baryshnikov and Rainieri were in attendance for a party promoting the Corales golf course and The Estates at Puntacana. "It's the tranquility, the culture, the ecological aspect, the vegetation -- that you don't have anywhere else," says Baryshnikov.

Not impressed by a singer, a designer and a former 'Sex and the City' star? Also frequently crashing at De la Renta's lair are Henry Kissinger and the Clintons.

And now that Punta Cana is no longer a roadless jungle, it recently added Jet Blue flights from JFK and Boston which make it an under-four-hour flight. Indeed buying that second and third home in the Dominican Republic is proving to be popular.

So what's the big to-do about Corales and The Estates? Well, the three men living on the east side of Corales, which is a stretch of 13 homes already built in the carefully growing, slowly expanding community. Fourteen homes were just added to the south side of the golf course. A grand total of 159 lots will ultimately be developed.

Corales is one of five residential communities under the Puntacana Group. It is the most upscale and is on 625 acres of lush green and sand. Two communities have long been sold out, but the three remaining -- Corales, Arrecife and Hacienda -- still have plots, with up to two acres of land, for each of those who want to build a home. Hacienda, the newest and covers 750 acres.

"I don't want the same problem I had before to happen in Punta Cana," says De la Renta recaling that pesky kitchen incident. With homes boasting beach and golf-course views starting at $2 million, he's able to weed out plenty of people.

One recent listing, for example, is a 10,764-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion on 54,000 square feet of land. Amenities include those private beaches and access to the Puntacana Resort's pools, spa, restaurants and tennis courts. There are two impressive golf courses, as well. One designed by Tom Fazio (which is only available to Corales residents and their guests) and another by P.B. Dye.

If you thought the $2-million starting price was a bit steep, this mansion lists at $6.2 million. The three celebrities likely won't have to worry about overcrowding with those prices.

With so many successful egos tooling around the island on golf carts there must be some diva behavior, right? Well, not for the most part, says former PGA pro Jay Overton, who left retirement and his own new home in the Grand Cayman Islands to head up Corales. (His Grand Cayman place is now or sale, by the way.)

Overton runs a tight ship on his golf course, which in a way is the center of the Corales community. The only outrageous behavior comes from Iglesias.

"Julio loves to ride through the course, directly from his property, in his boxer shorts," says Overton. "It is because he is Julio Iglesias that he can do this. And he is the only member who I allow to do this."

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