Building luxury apartments or corporate office towers might seem like an odd investment in an economy reeling from a deep recession, triple-digit inflation and chronic product shortages.

Unless it's Venezuela.

The combination of soaring prices and exchange controls that prevent businesses from buying dollars has made high-end real estate an attractive way for companies to protect the value of revenue earned in the increasingly worthless bolivar currency.

Cranes clutter the skyline of the Caracas municipality of Chacao, home to the capital's financial district and most of its embassies, despite a backdrop of huge supermarket lines that have become a symbol of the country's economic decay.

Las Mercedes, a neighborhood developed in the 1950s as an exclusive residential zone that is now filled with garish restaurants and bars, is also awash in real estate development.

"These projects all start from the same premise - 'let's absorb bolivars,'" said Beatriz Yilo of CBRE Venezuela, an affiliate of real estate services firm CBRE Group Inc.

"When you have a system that penalizes foreign exchange operations, and you don't want to commit a crime - what else do you have left?"

Total square footage of premium office space in Chacao and Las Mercedes is set to jump by nearly 50 percent by the end of next year, according to figures compiled by CBRE, while the cost in local currency of renting or buying such space has soared by nearly a factor of 15 in the last two years.

That roughly tracks the returns that would have been provided by buying dollars on the black market during the same period - with the added benefit that developers will have valuable assets on the ground if the economy recovers.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro sells dollars at 10 bolivars each for priority goods such as food and medicine and at around 660 bolivars for less important items. But greenbacks fetch nearly 1,100 bolivars on the black market, where the Venezuelan currency has lost 91 percent of its value in the last two years.