Monaco may be the second smallest country in the world, but it is also one of the richest. Almost a third of its residents are millionaires, lured to the French Riviera city state by its lenient fiscal policy -- income tax was abolished in 1869. It is estimated that 70% of the population is foreign-born, while just 10,000 are locals, "the Monegasques."
A new millionaire's bay
Consequently, Monaco's 38,000 residents are today squeezed into less than one square mile of land (2.02 square kilometers) -- a territory smaller than New York's Central Park.
And when an additional 40,000 people cross the borders from France and Italy each day to work, the problem only gets worse.
As the people and money have poured in, more and more land has been reclaimed from the sea. Since the early 19th century, Monaco has gained an additional 100 acres, accounting for 20% of its territory.
Now construction has begun on a €2 billion ($2.3 billion) project to extend the natural contour of Monaco's coastline a further 15 acres into the Mediterranean.
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Once complete in 2025, the new district, Portier Cove -- near the legendary Monte Carlo Casino, which has appeared in three James Bond films -- will house up to 1,000 residents in luxury apartments and villas.
Additional public spaces will include a hill and landscaped park, a seafront promenade and a little marina.
While the Government of Monaco is overseeing the project, private financers will front the construction cost and profit from the sale of real estate.
"Revenues for the private group through selling the apartments and houses will be more than €3.5 billion ($4.1 billion)," says Jean-Luc Nguyen, director of the government's urban extension project.
Monaco is one of the most sought-after addresses in the world, and consequently the most expensive place to buy property.
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Even so, building into the sea is complex and could potentially damage marine life.
But the key players involved in establishing this eco district are quick to underline its "highly ambitious target of sustainability and environmental protection."
Prior to construction, protected plant species inhabiting the project area were relocated to nearby marine reserves, and special submarine screens were installed to insulate the site and minimize the impact on the environment.
According to Bouygues Travaux Publics, the French company leading the build, water quality is being rigorously monitored by a team of independent scientific experts throughout construction.
To compensate for the inevitable loss of natural habitats, Bouygues plans to install a wide variety of artificial habitats in vertical and horizontal ecological corridors.
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