(FORTUNE Magazine) – Developing a huge condominium complex on New York Harbor is the most mundane thing Paul Bucha has ever done. But at 45, Bucha can make do with a few less thrills. A Vietnam war hero and later chief of Iranian operations for Ross Perot's Electronic Data Systems, he was involved in Perot's efforts to rescue EDS employees from Iran in 1979. Bucha cashed out of EDS after the raid and began his own company to help foreign investors find American partners. In the process, he paired up with Francois Spoerry, a French real estate developer. Together they formed a joint / venture, Port Liberte Partners, to bring a touch of Venice to, of all places, Jersey City, New Jersey. Port Liberte, a 158-acre development now rising in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, includes 2.25 miles of newly dredged canals, 600 boat slips, and plans for 2,250 housing units (so far, 300 have been sold). Says Bucha: ''We got the land at the right price, and the location has unlimited potential.'' A West Point swimming star whose photo hangs in the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Bucha earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in Vietnam when, as a 25-year-old infantry captain out of Stanford business school, he and the 88 men in his command fought off 1,500 enemy soldiers during an all-night battle. Says Bucha: ''If I learned anything from that experience, it's to never underestimate people.''

Bucha may need that lesson to finish off Port Liberte; the New York City area real estate market has softened considerably since Black Monday. But Perot says his former employee has the right stuff to ultimately succeed: ''Most Medal of Honor winners do one very brave thing that lasts a minute. Doing it over an extended period of time is an act of will, not of adrenaline. That puts ol' Paul in a special category.''