Fast growth of Crystal Lagoons in the U.S.

Crystal Lagoons has numerous lagoon projects operating worldwide, but those spotted across the U.S., such as Solé Mia, Balmoral, Windsong Ranch, Epperson, Lago Mar, and Southshore Bay, have validated the United States as the company’s leading market.

In addition, the company is expanding its successful Public Access Lagoons™ model with ticketed-entry across Florida and Texas, with important master agreements, such as the one signed with Epic for 16 developments, in different geographical areas.

“We are holding advanced negotiations with investment funds and leading malls in Florida, California, South and North Carolina, Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma for additional master agreements, which now represent 90% of the firm’s contracts,” says Ivan Manzur, Senior VP of Sales.

 

Atlanta Hot Market

Investors are big on the Atlanta real estate market as the city has become one of the most important metropolitan areas in the U.S. and, according to Roofstock, is considered a quasi-getaway city for investors looking for dependable, liquid real estate environments. Here are some key reasons why Atlanta is a prime location for real estate:

  • Population Growth: Atlanta is home to over 500,000 in the city and more than 6 million residents in the metropolitan area, being the most populous city in Georgia and the 9th-largest metropolitan area in the country. The population of Atlanta grew by 1.16% last year alone.
  • Job Market: Employment growth in Atlanta is 2.31% year-over-year with the metro area home to about 3 million employees.
  • Real Estate Market: Home values increased by 10.6% over the last year and are projected to grow by another 9.8% during the next 12 months. Over the last five years home values in Atlanta increased by a total of 49%.
  • Historic Price Changes & Housing Affordability: Home prices are rising in most of Atalanta neighborhoods and rents have increased by 17.9% year-over-year..
  • Quality of life: Forbes ranks Atlanta as one of the best places for business and careers in the U.S., and according to the most recent research by U.S. News & World report, Atlanta is one of the best places to live and a great place to retire.

To face the current population growth, density, and demand, the city has expanded its neighborhoods to suburban areas, where school district quality, home values, employment rate, and income levels have played a strong role in the decision-making of several real estate developers, especially master-planned community investors.

Crystal Lagoons is already at the forefront of this boom, with at least four Public Access Lagoons™ projects in the works set to deliver experience-centric amenities to Atlanta’s growing population seeking unique entertainment offerings.

 

New developments in Orlando

Crystal Lagoons signed a new contract with Hollywood-based asset manager  ADËLON Capital, to develop at least five Public Access Lagoons™ projects in the Orlando area starting in 2023.

The development team aims to open locations in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake and Sumter counties. Unlike previous plans in Orlando, these crystalline lagoons would be accessible to the public through the purchase of a ticket.

The PAL™ amenities will be built in conjunction with other new development like hotels and apartments. “We will bring Orlando the only thing it is lacking: a beach lifestyle,” Jonathan Cohen, ADËLON Capital founder and co-chairman, said in a prepared statement.

“Opening Public Access Lagoons™ next to hotels in Orlando would be a boom for these properties”, said Brad Parker, a land expert with Longwood-based Southern Realty Enterprises Inc.  “There’s no question it would increase revenue for a resort,” Parker said. “It’s another avenue of marketing to get people to come there.”

Orlando Business Journal

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Sports Illustrated, the legendary magazine known for its in-depth sports coverage and swimsuit model covers, will develop one of its first tourism projects next to the huge lagoon powered by Crystal Lagoons® technology at the Lago Mar project in Texas.

The nine-story complex, which includes a 200-room hotel, will be located around the 12-acre crystalline lagoon, the largest in Texas, and, according to the firm, promises an “unparalleled retreat for sports enthusiasts.”

The Sports Illustrated Resort is the result of a joint venture between Sports Hospitality Ventures, LLC (Sports Illustrated) and Lagoon Development (Lago Mar), a firm with which the multinational water innovation company also has a master agreement to develop four Public Access Lagoons™ projects, also known as PAL™ developments, scheduled to open between 2024 and 2026.

Sports Illustrated has been working on this project, billed as the “Major League of leisure,” in addition to the hotel, it will also include a Stadium Sports Grill and the Sports Illustrated Beach Club with beachside cabanas, resort services, and a swim-up island bar, among other services. The groundbreaking ceremony is set to take place in the third quarter of 2024. 

“We are thrilled to announce and welcome the arrival of the Sports Illustrated Resorts to Lago Mar,” said Uri Man, Founder and CEO of Lagoon Development.  

Lago Mar, in the heart of Texas, has made an unprecedented impact since its inception. This complex has transformed the lifestyle of this state thanks to its monumental 12-acre lagoon powered by Crystal Lagoons® technology, which has become the epicenter of family entertainment, fun, and aquatic life in the region.

The success of this initiative is undeniable. It has positioned Lagoonfest Texas as the preferred summer destination and set a record by hosting the largest number of floating cabins in North America, totaling 22. Furthermore, it’s a project that experiences explosive visitation. Last year, the Lagoon welcomed over 80,000 visitors from all states.

The United States is the world’s leading market for Crystal Lagoons. Texas has a significant presence, surpassing Florida, California, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, with multiple projects, including the Crystal Lagoons® amenity. 

Culturemap

In the main Latin American market, the multinational innovation company reinvents shopping centers by incorporating PAL projects in 11 malls and entering Sao Paulo, the fourth-largest city in the world.

Crystal Lagoons signed two mega-agreements to develop 23 new real estate and Public Access Lagoons™ projects, also known as PAL™, in different states of Brazil, including Sao Paulo, whose capital is the fourth-largest city in the world. These new contracts further consolidate the presence of Crystal Lagoons in this country, where it will be involved in projects with shopping centers, with an overall portfolio of 45 projects in different stages of development and negotiation in partnership with leading local developers.

The relevance of one of these major contracts is that the multinational innovation company enters the Brazilian retail sector with 11 public access complexes in partnership with two of the most important chains in this industry in Brazil, Iguatemi and Grupo Ivanhoe de Ancar, and in association with Outlet Park, a holding with extensive experience in the local retail sector.

These projects will be located in the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso Sul, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Goiânia, and Goiás. The first PAL™ complex will be developed in Belo Horizonte, featuring a crystalline lagoon, white sand beaches, and a shopping center, to which will be added hotels, spaces for trade fairs, multifamily areas, restaurants, weddings, multiple stages, terraces, amphitheaters, among other infrastructure according to each development.

“This model will be replicated in all projects, aiming to enhance and improve the experience in shopping centers that must reinvent themselves and compete with e-commerce. In Brazil, we confirm that PAL™ projects are becoming the new ‘anchor’ stores in malls. They provide an optimal response to the modernization needs of these commercial giants to remain points of social integration and entertainment,” explains Miguel Ángel Cabañas, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at Crystal Lagoons.

The other mega-contract further consolidates the presence of Crystal Lagoons in Brazil, entering the wealthiest state in the country, Sao Paulo, with 12 real estate and PAL™ projects in partnership with the ECIPSA group, one of the most important real estate holdings in South America, with 45 years of experience and operations in Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This company is expanding internationally, alongside Crystal Lagoons, with projects already underway in Israel, and it is also advancing to enter countries in America and Asia.

“We are proud to be able to bring a technology such as Crystal Lagoons® to Brazil’s main state, offering a unique value proposition for the people of São Paulo, who, in addition to the revaluation of the land, will be able to enjoy it with their families 365 days a year in a sustainable manner,” said Jaime Garbarsky, President of ECIPSA Group.

The most relevant projects of Crystal Lagoons in this country include “Brasil Beach Cuiabá Home & Resort” located in Mato Grosso, featuring the first crystalline lagoon in Brazil, and the luxurious second-home complex “Ponta da Figueira,” in partnership with Melnick-Even, one of the most important developers in the country.

In planned communities across the country, developers are ditching backyard pools for giant, artificial lagoons

From almost every room of their home in St. Johns, Fla., Neal and Barb Shact see an expanse of turquoise blue water, with tall palm trees and a stretch of white sand off their back patio.

But the ocean is 17 miles away. The shimmering shore is a giant pool that spans 14 acres, contains 37 million gallons of water and courts home buyers. The Shacts’ neighborhood, Beachwalk, is among a growing number of master-planned communities that use man-made bodies of water to bring beach living to the suburbs. Houses near lagoons, as the pools are called, cost less than those on an actual beach, and some buyers prefer them to the real thing.

View from above of the Shacts’ West Indies-style waterfront home.

PHOTO: ADAM T. DEEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“The water was awfully close, the houses were awfully small, and between hurricanes and high tide, things looked precarious,” Neal Shact, a 69-year-old retired software engineer, recalls from an initial look at beach houses when relocating from Chicago in 2020. Instead, he and his wife, now 56, bought a three-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot house at Beachwalk for $911,000. They spent another $100,000 on an outdoor shower and other upgrades to the West Indies-style house. Last year, they finished a $100,000 project to enlarge their outdoor patio to 450 square feet.

Now, he says the lagoon helps to entertain the grandchildren, 2 and 4, who splash around in it or play on the sandy beach. In addition to their HOA fee of $1,234 per quarter, which includes a $400 lagoon fee, the couple bought a membership in the Beachwalk Club, which costs $5,000 to join and $305 in monthly dues. There are 50 memberships for nonresidents available at the club to swim or use kayaks, paddle boards and waterslides. For residents, the lagoon serves as a social hub. 

Neal and Barb Shact at their home at Beachwalk. In 2023, the couple finished a $100,000 project to enlarge their outdoor space.

PHOTO: ADAM T. DEEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (4)

“When we go to the lagoon or the club, it’s impossible not to meet people,” he says.

Developers are pouring money into enormous lagoon pools, most of them in Florida and Texas. Another opened in 2021 in Utah, and 

Disney announced plans to put one into a new community in Rancho Mirage, Calif. On average, they are 8-feet deep, with shallower edges for swimming, and some have lifeguards. Lago Mar, a 12-acre lagoon near Houston, has a sailing club. All are raising the value of the land around them, says Lesley Deutch, managing principal at John Burns Research and Consulting in Boca Raton, Fla., by making an inland area feel like a resort.

The Shacts’ house overlooks a 14-acre lagoon. Their grandchildren play on the sandy beach behind their house. 

“You’re bringing water to a place that didn’t have much water before, and you’re creating a whole lifestyle around it,” she says.

Lagoons allow developers to sell lots to home builders at premium prices, says Uri Man, chief executive officer of The Lagoon Development Company, which develops them for communities. Home builders, in turn, can charge more for the houses, he says.

“We’re selling the idea that you are able to vacation right at home,” he says.

The 12-acre lagoon at Lago Mar, a community of 4,000 houses in the Texas City area, near Houston. Residents and guests can swim, sail, kayak and paddleboard on the lagoon. 

PHOTO: LAGOON DEVELOPMENT

Houses near lagoons sell faster than those in new neighborhoods without one, according to Man, who is also an executive vice president at Land Tejas, a Houston-based developer owned by Starwood Capital Group. While all communities differ, complicating direct comparisons, he says the company’s neighborhoods usually sell around 200 to 300 homes per year, while those with lagoons can sell 400, 500 or even 700 homes per year.

In June 2023, Tampa-based Metro Development Group opened a 15-acre lagoon with 35 million gallons of water, the largest in the U.S., at Mirada, a neighborhood that opened in 2020 in Pasco County, Fla. Mirada’s 2023 sales were up 89% from 2022, according to the company, and traffic to the Welcome Center and home builders’ model homes increased by 40% from 2022.

A splash playground in the amenity village at Lago Mar.

PHOTO: LAGOON DEVELOPMENT

In July, sales at Mirada were 121% higher than in March, when the lagoon hadn’t yet opened, and 153% up from July 2022. Metro says 47% of home buyers at Mirada rank the lagoon as the most important amenity or attribute for their buying decision. The company wouldn’t disclose the cost of building the lagoon. 

“This is not your typical development model, building a pool and a clubhouse,” says managing director Eric Wahlbeck. “It’s a massive undertaking.”

Dawn Curran-Tubb and Brian Wildman use a golf cart to get around Epperson, a lagoon community in Wesley Chapel, Fla., where they bought a four-bedroom house in 2021. 

PHOTO: MICHAEL GRANT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In 2021, Dawn Curran-Tubb and Brian Wildman bought afour-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house for $1 million at Epperson, a lagoon community in Wesley Chapel, Fla., that Metro opened in 2017. The couple relocated from Huntington Beach, Calif., when Wildman, now 53, took a new job as regional asset protection manager for a gas-station chain. Curran-Tubb, 54, used the opportunity to retire from a career in law enforcement. The pair looked at beaches across Florida but didn’t find the right home at their budget.

“I couldn’t get the house I wanted for the money, and if I wanted to be able to retire early,” she says, adding that “a lot of the houses on the beach were old or totally out of my price range.” It didn’t help, she recalls, that they kept seeing red tide, a discoloration from algae. Also, living on a real beach, she notes, “you’d have to pay flood insurance.”

The water-based amenities at Epperson, where prices of new homes range from the $300,000s to over $1 million, include an inflatable, 30-foot water slide and other water toys.

PHOTOS: TYLER JOHNSTON/COLE MEDIA PRODUCTIONS (2)

The house isn’t on the 7-acre lagoon and has no view of it. But the water is minutes away by golf cart and serves as a gathering spot with events such as Beer & Bucs, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. Curran-Tubb says she made friends she might not have met without the lagoon.

One drawback of lagoon living, according to the couple: It isn’t the real thing. From time to time, the pair makes the 40-minute drive to a real beach. “We miss the ocean breeze and listening to the waves crash,” Curran-Tubb says. Another challenge is day guests. On summer weekends, Wildman says the pair prefers to stay home with Shady, an 80-pound German shepherd, and Bagel, a 14-pound German shepherd-Chihuahua mix. “It can get extremely crowded,” he says. 

Metro’s Wahlbeck acknowledges that weekends can get busy but notes that there are beaches reserved for residents. Visitors bring in extra revenues for lagoons, which are expensive to build, says Karl Pischke, principal at RCLCO, a real-estate consulting firm in Bethesda, Md. In addition, he says, visitors are potential home buyers. At Epperson, home sales increased by 46% in 2019, the first full year after the lagoon opened, from 2018, the firm’s research shows.

Curran-Tubb and Wildman with Shady, a German shepherd, and Bagel, a German shepherd-Chihuahua mix, outside their 3,500-square-foot house at Epperson.

PHOTO: MICHAEL GRANT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The living room in Curran-Tubb and Wildman’s $1 million home.  

PHOTO: MICHAEL GRANT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Artificial lagoons require millions of gallons of water at a time when water is a scarce commodity, especially in the western U.S. They can use any kind of water, including seawater or brackish water. Desert Color, a community in St. George, Utah, has a 2.5-acre lagoon with 4 million gallons of water. It uses brackish water high in saline from an on-site well that gets cleaned by a water-treatment facility. The original plan for the community was a golf course, which would have used more water and served fewer people than the lagoon does, according to Rob Behunin, director of business services for GWC Capital in Orem, Utah, which developed the project with the Utah Trust Lands Administration. The lagoon evaporates less water than turf grass, he says.

Crystal Lagoons, a Miami-based company that licenses the technology for the water bodies and manages them remotely, says lagoons need fewer chemicals than regular pools and 2% of the energy required for pool-filtration systems. The company says the lagoons are filled once and need more water only to offset evaporation, just like regular swimming pools. On average, monthly maintenance for a medium-size lagoon costs $9,600 per acre, according to Iván Manzur, senior vice president of sales at Crystal Lagoons US Corp.

Curran-Tubb and Wildman were drawn to the millwork and crown molding inside the house.

PHOTO: MICHAEL GRANT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

With a lagoon that grants some access to the public, as many in master-planned communities do, the developer may decide to keep ownership of it and pay to insure it. With resident-only lagoons, the cost passes to the HOA, he says.

Still, the giant pools add costs for homeowners. Once a lagoon opens at Land Tejas’s communities in the Houston area, homeowners begin paying $400 a year on top of their HOA fees. With enough homeowners, each community can cover the lagoon’s maintenance. On average, homeowners pay around $1,200 per year in total HOA fees, including the $400 lagoon access fee.

Lago Mar homeowner Diana Boise in her golf cart. 

PHOTO: DIANA BOISE

At Lago Mar, the community near Houston, residents Diana and David Boise bought a four-bedroom 1,900-square-foot house for $244,000 in 2021. Boise, 80, a retired senior system analyst with a computer company, and his wife, 69, chose the lagoon community because of granddaughters Avery, 8, and Kinley, 6, who often visit. 

“We go down to the lagoon every single day,” says Diana. “They’re little water babies.”

“Water is a big issue not just in the West but in the entire country,” says Craig Martin, chief executive officer of Tellus Group, a developer in Prosper, Texas. “Hopefully this is convincing residents that they don’t need their own pools.”

In 2014, Tellus Group opened Windsong Ranch, a community in Prosper, and added a 5-acre lagoon in 2019. The lagoon, Martin estimates, is adding between 10% and 20% to both home prices and sales pace. Lagoon use is included in the HOA fees, which are in line with the market, he says.

Melody and Joe Wanzala with their sons Akena, 12, and Raila, 8, in front of their four-bedroom, 3,400-square-foot house at Windsong Ranch, a lagoon community in Prosper, Texas.

PHOTO: THE CHRISSY WEATHERSBY BALL GROUP

The 5-acre lagoon at Windsong Ranch, north of Dallas.

PHOTO: TELLUS GROUP

Joe and Melody Wanzala bought a four-bedroom, 3,400-square-foot house at Windsong Ranch for $910,000 in September 2022. Moving from the Oakland, Calif., area, Wanzala, a 54-year-old paralegal, says he and his wife, 43, an accountant, bought a stone house with tall French windows and vaulted ceilings.

Chrissy Weathersby Ball, their agent, says Windsong buyers generally pay more for houses than at comparable communities—between $50,000 and $100,000 more. The lagoon, Wanzala says, is an added benefit for sons Raila, 8, and Akena, 12, and helps with homesickness.

“In California, you’re living near the ocean. It’s so much part of you,” he says. “The idea of a lagoon with a beach, a mini-Caribbean, seemed to offset that a little bit.”

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