A few months before celebrating its 500th anniversary, Havana is strongly committed to international tourism. In the midst of the recovery of the recent tornado and the uncertain economic situation Cuba is experiencing, the construction of new hotels and the restoration of others, until recently in ruins, continues.
Only this year, the Havana authorities are envisaging the opening of a dozen, to raise the number of rooms to more than 12,500, just over half in four- and five-star facilities. A few days ago, during the FitCuba 2019 International Tourism Fair, two of them opened: Palacio Cueto, in Old Havana, and Vedado Azul, in Vedado.
But the state plans go further and include the rehabilitation of others such as the Deauville, the Lincoln, the Sevilla, and the Neptuno-Tritón, and the revival of extra-hotel services that include restaurants, marinas, centers and golf courses, in an ambitious plan that will go on throughout the next years.
The most recent business portfolio for foreign investment is even proposing plots currently occupied by buildings or public spaces, such as the intersections of the well-known 23 and B, Línea and Paseo, and Boyeros and 19 de mayo streets. The intention, according to Xonia Beltrán, delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in the capital, is to make Havana “a different destination” and surpass the 2,850,000 tourists who visited it in 2018.
The constructive movement is noticeable in the city. Both in the historic center and in the more modern areas of Miramar and El Vedado, it is not difficult to find closed sites and fences with signs about the works that are being built or planned to be built. Cranes, trucks and workers complete the landscape in the most advanced cases.
OnCuba brings you closer to six of the most important projects currently being worked on.
Hotel Prado y Malecón
The next jewel in the crown. After the opening of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski and the Iberostar Grand Packard, the Prado y Malecón will round off the trident of five-star-plus hotels in the vicinity of Havana’s Paseo del Prado.
The French chain Accor and the Cuban group Gaviota assumed the project, executed by the Cuban Almest real estate company and whose opening is scheduled for the coming months. With 250 rooms, 10 floors and a wide-ranging commercial mall on the ground floor, it will offer a privileged view of the Havana coastline and its colonial fortifications on both sides of the bay.
Conceived to provide exclusive services and maximum comfort accommodations, the Prado y Malecón already stands out in its surroundings due to its façade with large windows and its lookout point in the shape of a ship’s bow. To counteract its proximity to the sea, it is built with materials resistant to the saline environment and strong winds and its parking space will have a hermetic gate that will prevent the entry of water in case of sea penetrations.
It was first a boarding house, then a hotel recognized as the cleanest and cheapest in the city, and later a ruin. However, its restoration is going full steam ahead to open its doors before the end of the year.
Its central location in Old Havana, a short distance from the Capitol, the Parque Central, the Martí Theater and the Plaza del Cristo, gives added value to the building that is now multiplying its three floors and 100 rooms from yesteryear. On the ground floor, a large arcade will surround the hotel to facilitate access to commercial and service spaces, while new floors are being added to the original construction, in a design that combines history and modernity.
Keeping its old facades, surrounded by scaffolding for years to prevent its collapse, the new Gran Hotel “will have the significance that the modern hotel was born inside the old hotel,” explained historian Eusebio Leal, whose office was in charge of the preservation of the building that in a short time will receive its first foreign visitors.
Another historic building converted into a hotel. The building known at the beginning of the 20th century as the “Palacio de Hierro” due to its solid structure of iron and steel frames lined with cement, and then La Corona cigar factory, will now be a brand-new hotel in Havana’s historic center.
Belonging to the tourist group Gaviota, the Corona will have 120 rooms and is scheduled to open next December. The hotel will maintain its old facades as a hallmark, and will integrate to its design and services the rich tobacco heritage of the island, of which it is a part.
The imposing building located on Zulueta Street, very close to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of the Revolution, will join the list of new hotels that will open in 2019 and, together with those already mentioned, also includes others such as the Línea y N, the Marqués de Monte Hermoso, the Hotel Universitario and the Portales de Paseo.
1ra y D
Its construction advances per day. With an avant-garde design, this colossus will stand out very close to Havana’s Malecón, on the block that delimits 1st, 3rd, D and E streets, in Vedado.
Belonging also to the Gaviota tourism group, the 1ra y D will have some 600 rooms spread over two impressive towers separated by a lower height platform that will house restaurants, swimming pool, shopping centers and other facilities for those who can enjoy their services.
One of its main attractions will be a privileged view of the coastline, but this proximity also forces its builders to include protection measures against frequent sea penetrations. Because of the speed with which it is being built, it must be ready to receive tourists sometime in 2021.
3ra y 70
Not just one but three hotels are being built at the intersection of 3rd and 70th avenues, in Miramar, to the west of Havana. Built with totally Cuban capital by the Almest real estate company, two of them are going up next to the National Aquarium and will be separated by a two-story mall with shops, currency exchange offices and other services.
The closest to the sea will be a 515-room tower, while the other will have an X shape and will have 524 rooms. At its base it will house a large supermarket in the area currently occupied by the busy 3rd and 70th store. The opening of both hotels is scheduled for July 2021, if the construction schedule is met.
The works also include a real estate complex and a third hotel with about 400 rooms, whose opening should take place in 2022. This one will be adjacent to the Miramar Trade Center, very close to the Four Points by Sheraton, the first hotel managed by a U.S. company in Cuba after the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries in December 2014.
25 y K
The news that it would be built in the so-called “hueco” (hole), in front of the Coppelia ice cream parlor, turned out to be a scandal. It was announced with great fanfare and as the future highest hotel in Havana, with 42 floors, 156 meters high and 565 rooms, a giant even for the now lordly Habana Libre.
According to the plan, the basement and the access areas will first be built, and then the rest of the hotel will be built in two and a half years, for its opening in 2022. The entrance and exit of vehicles will be through 25 and K streets ―from where the project gets its provisional name―, while the now nonexistent stretch of K Street from 25 to 23 will also be built.
A year after the announcement, the first signs have started being seen, though still timidly, on the other side of the fences that close the passage for passersby and curious people. Despite comments and rumors about its possible interruption, it seems that it will finally be built and, with it, the face of one of the busiest places of the Cuban capital will change.