Brad Pitt’s impending divorce may be dominating the news but the megastar can take comfort in the fact that his ambitious development project on the Croatian coast is one step closer to fruition. On Tuesday, the City Council of Sibenik green-lighted a plan to turn the nearby Zablace peninsula into a vast new hotel and residential complex. Earlier this month Mr. Pitt made a highly-publicized visit to the site of the development in which he is a co-investor along with Swiss company, TFI Holding. After reportedly describing Croatia as “the most beautiful country he has ever visited”, what city planner would be so heartless as to nix Brad Pitt’s dream project?
TFI Holding began purchasing land on the Zablace peninsula several years ago mainly from Croatian expats residing in New York but also from the few remaining locals happy for the financial windfall. Originally, construction was slated to begin last year but, as with every business idea in Croatia, procuring the necessary permits proved to be an arduous process. It’s not clear at what point Mr Pitt became attached to the project, but his investment interest in Croatia dates back to 2012 and a planned resort along the Istrian coast which never happened. Although no completion date for the Zablace development has been announced, Tuesday’s decision and the fact that US$70million has already been invested is a good sign.
Giving the go-ahead to the Zablace project should be a no-brainer. The intent of the investors is not to build yet another luxury hotel resort (of which there are plenty in Croatia) but to build an actual city with hotels, hostels, a retirement home, residential buildings, kindergartens, villas, clinics, a shopping center and (of course in Catholic Croatia) a church. Locals are enthused about development as plumbing, waste disposal and electricity are now nearly non-functional. Nor is there a tourist industry as tourists make a beeline to the nearby Solaris resort complex where they have no interaction with local life and contribute nothing to the faltering local economy. The planned investment of US$1.5billion would be a transformative experience, to say the least.
Brad Pitt is not the only star involved in building the future Zablace City. Nikola Basic is Croatia’s star architect who remodeled Zadar’s waterfront with two of the country’s most remarkable urban installations: Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun. His startling combination of music, mysticism, light, sun and sea has become the highlight of any visit to Zadar. What he would do with an entire city to design is exciting to contemplate.
The timing for this project is also good now that Sibenik is having a moment. The five-star Hotel D-Resort (where Mr Pitt stayed) is another Nikola Basic design and was recently a finalist in the International Hotel & Property awards. Croatian foodies voted Sibenik’s Restaurant Pelegrini as the Croatia’s best restaurant for the second year in a row. Investors turned nearby Obonjan Island into a hyper-trendy “wellness festival” this past summer.
Like any conscientious Sibenik visitor, Brad Pitt checked out the Cathedral of St James, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week representatives from UNESCO filed into town again to check out the St Nicholas Fortress for possible inclusion on the World Heritage list. And what futuristic city would have a view of this prospective World Heritage Site? Why, Zablace of course.