Hopes the once-proud Berengaria Hotel can revive past glories have been rekindled after the property was finally snapped up by a Cypriot land development company prepared for the costly rebuild.
The dilapidated building was bought by Limassol-based Prime Property Group for a reported €2.2 mln with the new owners confirming to the Financial Mirror their plans to breathe new life into the property.
Gordian Holdings who had the property in their possession announced on Tuesday that it had been sold.
Closed since 1984, the property was abandoned to the elements with little to no interest from investors to take on what is considered one of the most demanding and risky projects on the island.
A deal was reached earlier in the year, but the new owners wanted to ensure that by buying the hotel they could use the surrounding area for building real estate.
Talking to the Financial Mirror, General Director of Prime Property Group, Lefteris Constantinou, confirmed that Prime Property Group has undertaken the task of reviving the hotel to its former glory, despite challenges the neglected property poses.
“We intend to get the Berengaria up and running as a hotel once more with our team already working on options on how to go about the task,” said Constantinou
“When it comes to such properties, the investor has two options. One is to knock it down and build something new, and the other is to renovate it and reinstate it as a classic mountain-style resort. We have opted for the second,” he added.
Renovating the Berengaria is a risky business with hidden costs which scared off earlier investors.
For a long time, it seemed the hotel’s history was not enough to attract the cash as real estate experts fear that demand for such properties just isn’t there due to hidden costs.
The sale comes after many unsuccessful efforts by the Bank of Cyprus and consequently Gordian Holdings to sell the property.
BoC had acquired the property in Prodromos through an asset to debt swap arrangement, finding its way to Gordian Holdings portfolio with both sides trying to offload the property through auction.
Not wanting to say too much about the rebuild, Constantinou said: “What we can promise is that at the end of the day, we will be delivering a project that will go a long way in benefitting the area”.
He said they will be making the most of the surrounding land with luxury villas and auxiliary buildings which will facilitate the hotel’s operation.
Constantinou said the firm fully intends on making the most out of the property, but without distorting the character of the hotel or the region.
The once-famous Berengaria covers an area of 26,520 sqm with the building itself covering 4,980 sq.m.
Prime Property is currently putting together a team to untangle red tape procedures such as obtaining licenses.
“Once licenses are obtained, which should take about a year, we will be getting construction work off the ground.
“This will include some infrastructure works like wastewater treatment plants with which we will be recycling the establishment’s water,” said Constantinou.
He said the firm’s marketing campaign will be based on the history and legends surrounding the property.
Once the most luxurious hotels in Cyprus, it was named in honour of Queen Berengaria, wife of Richard the Lionheart, who were married in Limassol in 1191.
The stone-built mountain hotel opened in 1931 and closed in 1984, its rooms and halls that once entertained royalty are now home to dust, graffiti and exposed to the elements.
Having withstood the passage of time, the Berengaria has now become an unofficial and a rather dangerous tourist attraction with its share of myths and ghost stories surrounding it.
There are plenty of ghoulish stories to choose from; A former manager who killed himself is said to wander the empty halls in search of new victims, a merchant’s wife supposedly found dead in the swimming pool seeks revenge and a fair maiden dressed in white linen is said to be visible only during dusk leaning against one of the windows.
It is estimated that some 200 tourists a week visit the hotel – situated at an altitude of 1,400 meters – attracted by the building’s architecture and macabre history.