Mayor António Pina, also president of AMAL
Transforming Olhão - Mayor António Pina, also president of AMAL

British investment of €9.5 million opens door to affordable housing in Olhão

Sale of former BelaOlhão factory powers municipal investment

Olhão council is basking in the fact that a ‘long shot’ – for which it was mightly criticised – has won through and will see the coastal town able to construct affordable housing, new schools and quite a bit else in between.

British investors’ commitment to purchase of the rundown BelaOlhão factory site mean the council has not only ‘doubled the money’ it put into the site’s purchase in 2020, but that it will now have the money it needs to move forwards with much-needed projects for affordable housing, and upgrades to the town’s pre-school and primary school network.

The deal also allows for vital carparking space to be retained for use by local people/ holiday visitors.

But none of this has been easy. In fact, in many ways, it has been a gamble: the BelaOlhão factory (formerly involved in production of animal feed) has now been sold no less than three times at public auction. The first time to an investor which then asked the council for ‘change of use’ permission so that the site could be developed for tourism. Had the council agreed, mayor António Pina explains, the profits in realising such a project would have all gone into private hands. This way, the council has kept the profits for itself: it purchased the site for €4.5 million – at a second public auction; it then went through all the bureaucratic steps of changing the land use – and now it has sold on, doubling its money – which will all go back to the municipality.

In the early days – when this was all a ‘dream’ – PSD members on the council were deeply critical, saying the council was acting as a property speculator. Now, it looks much more like a rather ingenious way of powering progress.

Explaining all the niceties to Jornal Barlavento, Mayor Pina said the investing company (as yet unnamed) is “obliged to build a 4- or 5-star hotel” with a number (unspecified) of high-end apartments

Written into the deal is the making over to the municipality of 250 basement parking spaces, “which will be provided free of charge to the municipality on an open-ended basis”.

The time limit for the hotel’s construction is 96 months (eight years) from the signing of the final deeds, which should be signed in the first three months of 2024

In other words, the promissory contract is the paperwork that has been signed this far (on April 26), for which the municipality has received an initial cheque for €500,000, which is due to be doubled within 30 days.

For now, there are many details ‘in the air’: who will run the hotel? Pina tells Jornal Barlavento “from the conversations we’ve had, what they tell us, they intend to build a very high level unit with an international chain’s insignia”.

The mayor believes the overall outlay will run to around €100 million. He explained, this has all been possible because investors believe in the council’s ‘project’ to transform the eastern end of the old fishing town, dragging it away from decades in the doldrums to a shining touristic prospect, that will serve to attract further investment.

A ‘son of the town’, António Pina recalls ‘the old days’, which he says many forget “but when the hotel next to the Ria Formosa was built (on Avenida 5 de Outubro), there was an old rubbish tip there. The whole site was a wasteland;  there was no marina like there is today. João Bernardino Gomes (the hotelier who invested in Olhão ‘in the old days’), believed in development. These investors believe in exactly the same thing (…) There are also already projects for several old warehouses, some with approved licenses (…) the entire area will be upgraded. It is the municipality’s intention that the port area adjacent to the avenue may have private use,” he added.

300 homes; school improvements

And the cherry-on-the-cake is that this deal will give the municipality the funds it needs to construct affordable housing for more than 300 families, and ensure much needed school improvements.

“We’re going to build a large (400-space) underground car park with the housing project (more than 300 homes at controlled costs) on the site of the old Litografia (on Avenida Sporting Clube Olhanense). One of the floors will be private, to serve the new housing, the other will be for public use” and also to serve other buildings in the neigbourhood that don’t have garages, the mayor told Barlavento.

The plan is for the car park to be close to the exit of the future metrobus/ adjacent to the train line, which the municipality believes will “help promote the use of public transport”, whether people are taking trains or the metrobus.

Regarding the pre-school and primary school improvements, the mayor outlined the “need to build more classrooms and rehabilitate two more schools”.

Source material: Jornal Barlavento (