DELMAS, Haiti -- The building’s concrete foundation rises 40 feet in a commercial zone that connects devastated suburbs, its tall steel tendons saluting a blue sky.
Haitian-envisioned, Haitian-financed and Haitian-constructed, the modern building — seven stories, with three levels of underground parking — that’s under construction is part of a new vision for Haiti, showcasing the promise and challenge facing a nation struggling to rebuild from the January 2010 earthquake.
“It’s a new beginning,” said Patrick Figaro, 45, a developer of Genesis, which borrows its name from the biblical narrative about the creation of civilization. “We are not only talking about revitalizing an area, but setting the standard for the modern Haiti.”
Two-and-a-half years after the 7.0 temblor destroyed much of Haiti’s capital and punched a hole in an already brittle economy, many envisioned a construction boom with dozens of projects, similar to Genesis, peppering the skyline. With $10 billion in aid pledged, the donor community had offered more than enough capital to begin a new city.
But donor funds lagged, and the public spending needed to grow the economy has been slow to take root.
Still, some like Figaro, a Haiti-born U.S.-educated architectural engineer, aren’t waiting on donors or the government to get moving. Figaro and his brothers have received help from local and international Haitian investors, one of the country’s largest banks, and hundreds of laborers.
For months, their family-run construction firm, Arcotec Haiti, has been quietly transforming a little under an acre at one of Haiti’s most important strategic commercial gateways into a modern seismic and hurricane-resistant complex. Taking place largely out of public view, except for the 80-foot construction crane perched in the skyline, Genesis offers three levels of underground parking and 100,000 square feet of commercial rental space that will include a rooftop café and 25 extended-stay hotel rooms for business travelers.
“This could easily be built in Miami,” said Javier Salman, the Cuban-American architect who designed the all-glass exterior, “modern, cutting-edge building” that will eventually rise 123 feet and be backlit at night. “It will be visible from the port, and from the Port-au-Prince airport. It screams, ‘Here I am.’ ”
Claude Pierre-Louis, executive director of Sogebank, agrees that the structure is state of the art.
“This project has a lot of imagination; it’s gutsy,’’ he said.
But that’s not the sole reason why Sogebank decided to provide $9 million in financing, Pierre-Louis said. Genesis, which is within walking distance of Sogebank’s quake-damaged headquarters, also responds to a need for commercial space, said Pierre-Louis, who plans to lease three floors. Construction costs of the building range between $15 million and $20 million.
“As a bank, we’ve always believed in the future of Haiti,” he said.
That future in recent years, has included several confidence-boosting, high-profile ventures by Haiti’s private sector including E-Power, a $56.7 million power generation investment, and soon-to-open $38 million Royal Oasis Hotel, which Arcotec built.