PANAMA-One of the world’s greatest engineering feats is now yielding a humongous commercial real estate opportunity. The 167-acre Isla Margarita is considered the last remaining developable waterfront parcel on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, according to officials at Colliers Multimodal Services Group, which has been retained as brokers for the property.

Port and terminal operators and similar firms involved in maritime industries are among those expected to pursue the one-time US naval installation, says John Carver of Colliers, executive director for the multimodal services division. “Furthermore,” he adds, “the Isla Margarita has more than 2,000 meters of pristine coastline offering the potential for other forms of development, such as beachfront hotel, restaurants, retail or entertainment.”

That multi-faceted vision certainly seems light years removed from the godforsaken, mosquito-infested quagmire through which the canal was forged a mere century ago, although Panama Canal Authority chairman Ricaurte Vasquez stresses that the waterway itself serves a far different level of ocean vessel than ever could have been imagined at the outset. “With an increase in ship size and the volume of cargo traffic, the existing canal has nearly reached capacity,” says Vasquez, prompting the authority to approve a $5.3-billion enterprise last year that will create another lane for traffic entering and exiting the canal.

The expansion should further enhance interest in Isla Margarita, Carver maintains, giving marine operations an abutting base from which to service the new growth. International trading companies seeking to operate within the nearby Colon Free Trade Zone are another source of business who might utilize the Isla Margarita, suggests Carver, a notion backed by Mario Hoyte, secretary general of the Colon Free Trade Zone, which is the second largest of its kind in the world.

“We would welcome the opportunity to see the Isla Margarita site developed to help the Colon Free Trade Zone in accommodating the continuing growth of international trade and to provide the needed facilities to capture the new growth expected from the expansion of the canal,” says Hoyte. The canal project is set to begin in 2008 and be completed by 2015.

Among other services, the Colliers International Multimodal Service Group itself offers global analysis of free trade zones, as well as logistical support, tariff appraisement and importer compliance for the ocean, air and grown transportation sectors. Besides Panama, the multimodal team is presently representing all development within the Lingang Logistics and Manufacturing Zone in Shanghai, an assignment touted as the largest ever in Mainland China for a US-based commercial real estate company.

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