It would be amiss if I did not refer to the legendary developer Michalakis ‘Michael’ Leptos, who recently passed away leaving his mark on the Cyprus Real Estate sector.
Upon my return from the U.K. and looking for a job back in 1972, I met Leptos and discussed the subject of my possible employment with his company.
I was shown around several projects in the Kyrenia area.
I was impressed by the size and extent of his developments, especially their attractive architecture, primarily geared for the holiday home and retirement market of British visitors.
I remember our tour of Kyrenia’s Kamares project where he included as decoration the use of ‘psatharkes’ (bamboo or wicker) for the ceilings.
He explained to me that he stumbled upon this by mistake, as flies and other insects like to live in the cones, creating problems and suggested to use these for external purposes only.
After the Turkish invasion in 1974, having worked in Arab countries for several years, Michael Leptos returned to Cyprus embarking on the large housing project ‘Kamares’ (“arches”) near the Ayios Neophytos monastery.
At the time, I was the appointed valuer for the project on behalf of the financier (Arab Bank) we had numerous meetings during the project’s development.
My first impression at the time was one of cautiousness – how could such a large-scale development be realised in such a steep topography in an area full of snakes.
Alas, I was wrong. The project has since become well known internationally, both for its architectural design, also for its adaption of “advanced” features for that time with the extensive use of green areas, the creation of a common administrative building (the Kamares Clubhouse), common maintenance service.
These are now routine by legal and planning requirements, as well as the adoption of international standards of development for such scale projects.
Following the success of this project, Leptos expanded his development to other projects such as Paphos Gardens, the mountain region and later in Kato Paphos.
And more recently in the Limassol area, such as the landmark Del Mar development.
Leptos promoted his style of architecture, which is to my liking (and to his clients).
The use of local Paphos stone, various Cypriot style features (the large ‘pythari’ pots), extensive planting of bougainvillaea and other trees, added to the attraction of many projects.
The business of Michalakis Leptos had its ups and downs, it went through difficult times during the post-bail-in period of 2013.
I remember we met by chance at the Bank of Cyprus head offices he asked me to help with his business plan submitted to the bank, which had strong reservations.
I promised that I would (being a consultant to the bank), but I could not persuade the bank otherwise.
My relations with the Leptos Group were not always smooth we had our differences, especially regarding the values of real estate and the differences that the Group had with some of its buyers (the latter seeking independent valuations on their property purchases).
The Group expanded in the tourist industry with two hotels in Paphos and Greece (the Coral Beach resort and Thalassa in Paphos and the Panorama in Crete) more recently, the development and operation of Neapolis University in Cyprus, over which we had our differences.
Be that as it may, Leptos is one of the few developers who has left his mark on Cyprus real estate.
A unique person, Cyprus real estate has benefited immensely from his imaginative business model expanded to the Greek islands.
He had the fortune to be succeeded by his two sons, George and Pantelis and his low-profile wife, Kiki who chooses to stay away from the spotlight, living in a most modest house at Kamares with an active community and social life.
Michal Leptos is one of the few who led the building development industry.
I would place him in the same category such as other pioneers, such as the Lordos Group of Famagusta, Pieris Estates, who discovered the Limassol seafront development as well as Evagoras Lanitis (Aphrodite golf course), the Nicos Shacolas Group (with the first shopping mall) and others.
Farewell, dear friend Michalakis.
Rest assured that your name and contribution to the Cyprus Real Estate Market will remain for years to come.