Island Charter City Prepares to Welcome Residents

Located off the coast of Honduras, Roatán Próspera aims to be the Hong Kong of the Western Hemisphere.

A private development on the Honduran island of Roatán is set to start taking applications for residents. Roatán Próspera is one of the country’s “Economic Development and Employment Zones,” or “ZEDEs”—charter cities set up by investors. The 58-acre site technically is part of Honduras but under its charter is semi-autonomous, with the ability to collect taxes and purporting to pay workers at least 10% above the minimum wage in Honduras.

Developers are angling the project as an opportunity for technology firms to incorporate on the island. As reported by Bloomberg, Próspera expects many people to incorporate businesses there but not live on-site. The project broke ground last year; Honduras’ charter city program started in 2013. Proponents of charter cities have pointed to Hong Kong as a model of possibilities. An earlier trend, seasteading—projects in the ocean—saw entities like the Principality of Sealand.

The Roatán Próspera project has more than two dozen investors, including NeWay Capital, Bedrock Capital, and Pronomos Capital. It also comes with some big name partners: Zaha Hadid Architects has put forth the first residential complex at the site. Tech service firm Jacobs has been hired to manage services for the project.

The Próspera ZEDE has drawn protests from locals on the island, concerned about the autonomy of the project and lack of communication with residents of Crawfish Rock, the nearby village. Honduras is struggling with issues of government corruption, with President Juan Orlando Hernández accused of accepting bribes.


Photo: Próspera