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Arecibo To Be Site For $6 Million Wellness Center, Holistic Spa, And Retirement Villa

Aptly named Villa Sana promotes healthy living


October 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Construction is set to begin January on Villa Sana, a $6 million wellness center, holistic spa, and retirement community in Arecibo.

Villa Sana, to be completed in 2004, will be nestled in a 7.5-acre valley, part of a 30-acre tract of land near PR-638 in the Arrozal sector of Arecibo. The remaining land will be devoted to nature trails, organic cultivation, and garden retreats.

The project will be like no other in Puerto Rico or, for that matter, in the Caribbean, as it will target the untapped and relatively new $40 billion world ecohealth tourism market.

The project is the lifelong dream of Villa Sana CEO Marvey Bernacet, a retired business executive formerly with Colgate-Palmolive International, Holiday Inn International, and the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Ore.

She is receiving guidance and financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Institute at Sagrado Corazon University.

"Villa Sana will be geared to individuals interested in improving and optimizing their general health through natural therapies, healthy food, lifestyle changes, and personal growth," Bernacet told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "It will be known as the place for a healing experience, similar to the best centers in Europe and the U.S."

She bought the tract of land in 1993 after a long search for a place that is secluded yet close enough to San Juan and to an available work force.

The 41,500-square-foot complex will be made up of six buildings plus the administrator’s residence. Emphasis will be given to electricity and water conservation and to the preservation of natural resources.

The design team of Edwin Quiles and Anthony Sanchez, of architectural firm Taller de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, will apply active and passive solar technology to reduce dependence on electricity. The buildings’ external common areas and gardens will be illuminated by solar power; the water will be heated using solar panels.

"It is the first time in Puerto Rico that solar technology will be utilized in a project of this magnitude," said Bernacet. "Cross-ventilation and openness will make the buildings naturally pleasant and cool, making air conditioners unnecessary."

Rainwater will be collected and stored for nondrinking purposes, and filtered gray water (from sinks and showers) will be used to water the gardens. Low-flow showerheads, low-flush toilets, and water-saving washing machines will also be used to further reduce water consumption.

"Two buildings will make up the 11,700-square-foot retirement/residential villa, with 32 one- and two-bedroom apartments," said Bernacet. "A 7,500-square-foot building will house the administrative offices, a natural medicine apothecary, and a first-class, mainly vegetarian restaurant & kitchen." Bernacet has already hired local chef Susana Castroman, who specializes in the preparation of gourmet vegetarian foods.

Each residential villa will have its own parking space. Rainwater will be collected into each apartment’s water cistern. The building will also collect rainwater into a large-capacity cistern for use in common areas. City water and electricity will be used minimally.

A 10,500-square-foot building will house the wellness center and holistic spa, which will incorporate features of the best holistic spas in the world, noted the Villa Sana CEO. A 9,000-square-foot building will house the 28-suite guest facility. Each suite will be comfortably appointed with two beds and a private bath.

"Unlike traditional day spas, which treat only the cosmetic aspect, holistic spas treat mind, body, and spirit," explained Bernacet.

A 1,158-square-foot, two-story building will be used for maintenance. The lower floor will house the laundry room, with the rest of the space to be devoted for the storage of supplies.

The upper floor will house a four-bedroom, two-bath apartment that will be used to accommodate naturopathic physician students and other licensed professionals, who will assist under the guidance of experienced naturopathic physicians. Bernacet plans to have at least four licensed naturopathic physicians on site at all times.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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