Thursday, September 13, 2018
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The $2.8bn West End revival will be "complemented" by an adjacent resort condo project that aims to make its 1,200 construction and full-time jobs "100 percent Bahamian".
John MacDonald, principal of Grande Harbour at Old Bahama Bay, told Tribune Business his 460-unit development was targeting "the perfect time and the perfect area", with The Bahamas poised for an economic and investment upswing.
He said he was willing to work with Toronto-based Skyline Investments, purchaser of the former Ginn property, to redevelop Grand Bahama's West End through their separate projects targeted at high-end clientele.
Mr McDonald, owner of three existing condos at Old Bahama Bay, and president of the resort's operator, explained that his project is earmarked for the 225-acre land parcel acquired from West End Resort Holdings (WERL) Ltd.
Pledging that his efforts will soon "be full speed ahead", he added that Grande Harbour was currently negotiating a Heads of Agreement with the Government, and in the process of obtaining all necessary planning, environmental and other approvals, having first approached it with the project in 2017.
"I've had my crews there, engineers there working with Bahamian engineers, a general contractor there taking applications from qualified builders and electricians," Mr MacDonald told Tribune Business.
"We already have full blown blueprints; we know where every screw and every nail is going." He added that he had "kept quiet" over his plans, which have been five years in the making, until the land acquisition and related title searches were completed to ensure there were no obstacles that might interrupt progress.
Grand Harbour will feature 460 resort-style condos divided into one, two and three-bedroom units. It will also boast a 78-slip dockaminium, with a combination of fixed and floating docks to accommodate vessels up to 75 feet in length.
Fixed docks will be made available with optional boat lifts for centre console-style boats 40 feet in length or less, while some 2,500 lineal feet of dockage will offer space, power and water for mega yachts.
Mr MacDonald said that while he was still awaiting financial projections from Grande Harbour's economic impact study, the investment involved will be "not quite as much but pretty close" to that contemplated by Skyline.
"There's going to be roughly 900 construction jobs and a little over 300 full-time employees," he told Tribune Business. "Our first phase is going to expand the marina, build a new check-in facility and we immediately want to move on the amenities."
Grande Harbour's proposed amenities include two infinity pools; hot tubs; a spa; two restaurants; tennis courts; basketball courts; volleyball courts; the "largest fish cleaning station in all of the Bahamas"; a convention hall; gym facilities; and a private members-only club.
Mr MacDonald said he wanted to develop the amenities before starting vertical construction on the condos to ensure that both the last and first buyer at Grande Harbour have access to the same facilities.
"I've seen so many projects go up where they start selling the real estate, and there are all the buyers hanging out with no restaurants," he explained. "Since we are fully funded my thought is to start the marina, the check-in and the pool house.
"So, if you come in tomorrow to buy the first unit you're not sitting there wondering: Where's the coffee shop? You'll have the same amenities as the last guy to buy. We will do the amenities, and then do the first condo building. These are going to be resort condos sold off to people wanting to come and stay and rent.
This [Grande Harbour] has been a dream of mine. I've been working on the funding for a long time, and didn't even approach WERL until I had the money in the bank. In total, I've been working on this for five years."
Mr MacDonald explained that he had been alerted to the demand for a "world renowned, high class and ultra luxury resort" by the high-end clients he has brought to the existing Old Bahama Bay property, who were calling for facilities such as spas.
"My favourite place in the entire world, and I travel all over the world, is the Bahamas," he told Tribune Business. "It's the perfect time and the perfect area for it. The Bahamas is on the upswing, and if we do it right we will keep it like that."
Mr MacDonald added that, as neighbours, Grande Harbour and Skyline "could share employees, experiences and save a lot of money" by working together.