Since founding the Martinhal brand of luxury family-focused hotels in 2010, Roman and Chitra Stern have played a pivotal role in the development of Portugal as a leading destination for discerning travellers to Western Europe. With resorts in the prestigious locations of Sagres, Quinta do Lago, Cascais, and Chiado in Lisbon, and more than 20 years of experience on real estate and hospitality, the entrepreneurial couple stepped into the residential sphere and will soon see the completion of the Martinhal Residences in Park of Nations, Lisbon. The project is already 80% sold off plan for good reason. Not only have the Martinhal been recognised by Savills as one of the top three branded residences in Europe, but meticulous thought has been given to the individuals and families that will call these spacious properties and vibrant district home.
The Park of Nations is a transformative riverside neighbourhood located in the northeast of the city and just five minutes from the airport with excellent transport links.
Originally developed to host the 1998 World Expo, it represents the city’s transition from old to new, playing host to exemplary modern architecture and design; vast public spaces; contemporary sculpture; a marina; a casino; museums; concert halls; a state-of-the-art private hospital; a diverse restaurant scene; and sports facilities.
Perhaps most impressive of all, is the establishment of the United Lisbon International School in September 2020—borne out of Roman and Chitra’s first-hand knowledge of the importance of education for international families relocating, and their deep concern for the next generation being ready to make a difference in an ever more globalised, volatile and competitive world. Their research also underscored the need for quality international education within central Lisbon—a niche they were determined to fill.
“Just before the pandemic, Roman and I founded the United Lisbon International School because we believe in education for the future and in enabling international families to move here. The availability of international education is a key part of the decision for families to relocate to a certain area and there just wasn’t an option available to them. We did the impossible by opening the school on time in September 2020, at a very tough point during the pandemic.
“Gladly, we have already seen our student community grow to over 320 students with more than 25% being Portuguese – affirmation that this school was a much-needed investment for the area and that it is not just a foreign enclave. Our faculty is diverse and multi-cultural – making this a truly international school,” says Chitra, who with her husband is also parent to four children all of whom were born and brought up in Portugal.
In creating the school, the Sterns regenerated a former university campus building earning along the way the “Lisbon Prize” at the World Architecture Festival, an accolade for “the best building in the city” for their renovation of the original 1950s structure. They have also had recognition at the local government level for the importance of this project for the area. Being close to the Park of Nations, the United Lisbon school is in a unique position to enrich student learning through experiences beyond the classroom building on collaborations with local partners and businesses.
United Lisbon International School offers a vigorous international curriculum that begins at age three, with an Early Childhood programme keyed to each child’s educational development. At present, the school’s comprehensive syllabus goes through Grade 10; and commencing with the September 2022 school year, it will expand through Grades 11 and 12, with their first students sitting the International Baccalaureate in May 2024.
In addition to the United Lisbon International School being a magnet to attract foreign families to Park of Nations and the Martinhal Residences, it is also the anchor project for wider Edu Hub Lisbon envisaged by the couple—to be developed as a hub for innovation and education which will see companies and academies coming together with the school to guarantee an education that is fit for tomorrow’s purpose. The 28,400 square metre development will be the first of its kind. Utilising revitalized industrial buildings, in the future the campus will come to life with new spaces for learning, working, and living.
“The United Lisbon International School is part of a bigger story. It is the central component in plans for the Edu Hub that will create an ecosystem for education and technology where students, innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and creators can connect in pursuit of lifelong learning. We can see amazing opportunities for internships and shadowing and the possibility for students to connect with companies and other organisations at a much younger age and to develop their interests through effective learning—stimulating their curiosity for knowledge,” Chitra said.
It may seem a stretch from the couple’s hospitality roots, but with the hand-chosen team in place for education and business development, the Edu Hub is perfectly poised to serve the continued growth and renewal of the Park of Nations and beyond, increasing Lisbon’s appeal to start-ups looking for an innovative and technologically savvy workforce. These individuals, in turn, will be looking for homes and facilities that speak to their needs and the needs of their families in dynamic, forward-thinking neighbourhoods.
Chitra concludes: “I have believed in the future of Portugal for two decades and that belief grows every day. We trust that the investments we have made in education will help to create a vibrant and multi-cultural environment in which individuals can flourish and contribute to the continued growth and development of the country we love so much.”