In Turkey, halfway between Istanbul and Ankara, an empty “town” consisting of 732 nearly identical castles sits abandoned. Developed by Sarot Property Group, this “castle city” called Burj Al Babas was heavily endorsed by the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The belief was that this would create necessary jobs in the infrastructure industry as well as infuse life into the country’s real estate sales. However, all this was prior to Turkey’s recession.
The development resembles a sort of Disneyland fantasy, which is exactly what the developers were hoping for. The identical exteriors, each with ornate facades, Juliet balconies, and round turrets, are meant to resemble traditional French chateaus. Nevertheless, inside is a different story… at various stages of completion, the mini-castles look as though the worker dropped his tools after lunch and decided to never come back.
The idea was that these uniformed villas would be luxury vacation homes for wealthy tourists, mainly from the Middle East. The project is valued at $200 million with each mini-castle costing anywhere from $370,000 to $530,000. Many homes have already been bought and by the time the developer filed for bankruptcy and halted construction, the company was $27 million in debt.
Some of the problems were out of Sarot Property Group’s control as the Turkish lira had recently greatly weakened and that made it very hard for businesses to repay the foreign debts that had accumulated in order to finance such large construction projects.
Construction began in 2014 and Sarot Propety Groups is still hopeful that the project will eventually be completed. Mehemet Emin Yerdelen, the company’s chairman blames the crisis on deadbeat clients. He says, “We couldn’t get about 7.5 million dollars receivables for the villas we have sold to Gulf countries. We applied for bankruptcy protection but the court ruled for bankruptcy. We will appeal the ruling.”
Yerdelen’s reasoning is that only 100 villas need to be sold in order pay off the debt that has accumulated. Yerdelen says, “I believe we can get over this crisis in four to five months and partially inaugurate the project by 2019.”
Initially, 350 of the villas were snatched up by investors from Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Now, who knows what will become of this eerie development. Even though all the imaginable amenities were thought of, basketball and tennis courts, horse riding areas, and ATV tours for example, the lure has to be far greater in order for investors to feel more optimistic about Buji Al Babas!