As the Falcon 2000LX reaches 41,000 feet, Uri Man begins answering questions from real estate developers. “It’s not stagnant. It’s circulating,” Man, the CEO of Crystal Lagoons USA, tells one inquiring passenger.
Soon we would see for ourselves. Man had chartered the plush jet and scooped up some developers and this author attending the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco last Monday. Now we’re bound for Cabo San Lucas to tour a human-made lagoon.
“We are a technology company collaborating with developers,” Man explains. This unique collaboration for large-scale real estate development projects had piqued my interest. Crystal Lagoons has 300 lagoon projects underway globally. Man did a stint as a developer before Crystal Lagoons founder Fernando Fischmann recruited him to accelerate lagoon projects in the U.S. “Right now we’re going to Cabo, because I can’t show you one yet in the U.S.” That’s about to change. The first Crystal Lagoon in the U.S. will reportedly open next summer at Epperson Ranch in Pasco County, Florida.
Meantime, we’re headed to the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula to see what a 10-acre salt water lagoon looks and feels like. As Man begins a slide presentation on his notebook computer, I begin
visualizing the collaborative potential of lagoons. Resort developers need a new amenity to differentiate their projects. Coastal resorts can increase their waterfront, and inland resorts can gain a coastal experience. A Crystal Lagoons architect and project team collaborates with the developer’s planning team until they conceive a project with a lagoon as the centerpiece. The Crystal Lagoons technology uses disinfection “pulses” that reportedly allow using up to 100 times fewer chemicals than a swimming pool and an ultrasonic filtration system that allows using up to 50 times less energy than conventional filtration systems.
The Crystal Lagoons business model has nothing to do with construction and everything to do with licensing. The company has a major stake in the success of development projects, because it receives roughly two percent of every condominium and house sale and a similar cut of each time share dollar. For developers, constructing lagoons costs an average of $100,000 to $200,000 per acre.
The Falcon 2000X lands, and a greeting party boards the plane and passes out hand-blown shot glasses. After a ride through some dusty Cabo streets, we arrive at the Diamante development west of the city on the Pacific Ocean. After we tour the resort, I change into my swim suit and plunge into the salt water lagoon. As I swim laps in a life-guarded area near one of two beaches, kayaks explore the expanse of this man-made mini ocean.
En route back to San Francisco, Uri Man talks about the future of Crystal Lagoons with the gusto of a bond trader (he used to be one) and the chutzpah of a guy who once hit on Fox News anchor Ainsley Earhardt on live TV (which he did). That future may involve cross-sector collaboration among industry and governments.
“Parks are big money losers for states, cities and countries,” Man insists. So why not collaborate with governments to transform parks with lagoons? “Then it’s not just ten people showing up with their dogs,” says Man. “You could have hundreds of thousands showing up.”
The licensing revenue business model, which the company would likely modify for government work, ties the success of Crystal Lagoons to the achievements of developers and their large-scale projects. Both parties share wins and losses. So Crystal Lagoons enters into collaborations carefully and works with developers to create mutual value. More broadly, business partners can achieve smashing success if incentives and business models foster symbiotic relationships and collaborative value creation.