Leonardo DiCaprio unveils Belize eco-resort plans, designed by Jason McLennan

by Helen Andrews | 13 Apr 2015

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has unveiled plans to open an eco-resort on his private island in Belize in partnership with New York-based real estate firm Delos, designed by lead architect Jason McLennan of McLennan Design.

Dubbed ‘Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island’, the environmentally friendly project will offer 68 villas spread across its 104 acres (42 hectares) when it launches in 2018.

Speaking to The New York Times, DiCaprio said it had taken him 10 years to find the right development partner – a deal with Four Seasons Hotels fell through. Paul Scialla, owner of real estate firm Delos, has founded Restorative Islands to build the resort and Restorative Hospitality – a division of Delos – will operate the property.

DiCaprio serves on the Delos advisory board alongside designer McLennan, whose plans for the resort show that the villas will be built on a giant platform stretching in an arc over the water, with artificial reefs and fish shelters beneath it. A nursery on the island will grow indigenous marine grass to support a manatee conservation area and mangrove trees will be replanted, replacing invasive species following deforestation, overfishing and coastline erosion.

A team of designers, scientists, engineers and landscape architects – some of whom have spent more than 18 months studying Blackadore Caye – will monitor the resort’s impact on its surroundings.

Blackadore Caye will adhere to the Living Building Challenge, strict environmental requirements including water and energy self-sufficiency – created by McLennan. This resort will be the first to adhere to these standards.

McLennan is using the concept of sacred geometry in his designs for the resort – where the proportions of buildings are derived from mathematical proportions found in nature.

McLennan said: “Many of Delos’ evidence-based health and wellness amenities and technologies will be built into the architecture, such as state-of-the-art LED circadian lighting and controls that help support optimal sleep at night and alertness throughout the day, as well as advanced air and water purification systems to ensure the highest quality of air and water. Additionally, healthy non-toxic materials and finishes will be used exclusively throughout the property.”

The villas, which will have access to nearly a mile of secluded beach, grassland and jungle, will shelter guests and fish underneath – but they will also harness the breeze from the water to keep the villas cool.

Almost 45 per cent of the island will be a conservation area and the resort will be built with as many native materials as possible, using local labourers who will be trained in green building techniques.

In addition to wellness programming, which includes The Deepak Chopra Center for Renewal and Anti-Ageing that has been put together by another Delos advisory board member – self-improvement advocate Deepak Chopra – guests will go through an ecology orientation programme and no plastic water bottles will be allowed on the island.

DiCaprio bought the island with business partner Jeff Gram – who owns Cayo Espanto Island Resort on another private island in Belize – for US$1.75m (€1.66m £1.2m) after a holiday there in 2005 to visit the barrier reef.

“Belize is truly unique. It has the second largest coral reef system in the world and it has some of the most biodiverse marine life, like the manatee population and almost every species of fish you can imagine,” said DiCaprio. “Then there are the Mayan temples and the culture.”

Critics, however, say no resort can be truly sustainable because you have to fly to get there and that people who visit are only buying the status of staying at an exclusive eco-resort. On the contrary, DiCaprio and Scialla believe guests’ visits to Blackadore Caye will help reverse some of the environmental damage the island has suffered. The island’s mangrove trees were cut down by fishermen for firewood, to smoke their catch and the location’s once plentiful palm trees have been uprooted to landscape the grounds of hotels in San Pedro.

“The main focus is to do something that will change the world,” said DiCaprio. “I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.”

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FEATURE: Interview – Paul Scialla

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has unveiled plans to open an eco-resort on his private island in Belize in partnership with New York-based real estate firm Delos, designed by lead architect Jason McLennan of McLennan Design. Dubbed ‘Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island’, the environmentally friendly project will offer 68 villas spread across its 104 acres (42 hectares) when it launches in 2018. Speaking to The New York Times, DiCaprio said it had
Blackadore Caye will adhere to the Living Building Challenge, with strict environmental requirements including water and energy self-sufficiency / McLennan Design
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