A multi-million dollar mixed-use resort planned for Long Island will create more than 300 direct jobs when it becomes fully operational, one of the project's principals telling The Tribune that the developers hoped to break ground by summer 2008 if all conditions of their approval in principle were fulfilled.
Ian Moorcroft, one of the directors that submitted the initial application to the Government for the Port St George and Caribbean Heights projects, which if approved will be constructed on land adjacent to the island's existing Stella Maris resort, said "it is essential to the success of the project" that Long Islanders and Bahamians stepped forward to run and operate many of its amenities.
"The Port St George project is certainly looking at in excess of 300 sustainable jobs when the development is finished, and higher numbers than that during the construction phase," Mr Moorcroft said. "We're very hopeful of breaking ground on this in summer 2008.
"We are looking for a situaion where the Bahamians and Long Islanders themselves want to come in and run the bars, restaurants, dive boat operations, car hire, retail and marina. We don't want to bring people in.
"We believe it is essential to the success of the project that the Marina Village has all these things in it, but we don't want to run it. The project is dependent on Long Islanders being willing to say: 'Yes, we want to set up and run it'."
The Government and developers will stage a Town Meeting on 'the project and its potential impact on Long Island tomorrow night, Mr Moorcroft confirming Tribune Business's exclusive story on July 18, 2007, that the Government had approved the project in principle this summer.
"That approval is conditional on us meeting four criteria. This is what we are working on at the moment," Mr Moor-croft told The Tribune. Two of those conditions involve the Town Meeting and submitting a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Government, plus two other conditions that Mr Moorcroft declined to specify.
'There are some environmental issues that we need to address, and that is why we are holding a Planning Charette here on Long Island this week," Mr Moorcroft said. "We will come up with and put in a revised version of the masterplan design to deal with any environmental issues, and give us a more detailed and better version of what we did last year."
The Charette will allow Long Islanders to voice concerns and suggestions over the proposed designs for Port St George and Caribbean Heights, and enable the developers to see whether they can incorporate these in the finished masterplan. The developers are hoping to submit the EIA to the Government by next month.
The original masterplan for Port St George, which is subject to change, called for a development that features a boutique hotel with 146 suites/villas; some 60 boutique villas; plus waterfront lots of 1/3 of an acre and greater size, with some 180 docking slips for boats between 80-100 feet in length, and a further 60 boat slips for vessels between 40-60 feet in length.
Other components of the original masterplan, developed in summer 2006, call for some 306 residential lots between 1/3 to ? of an acre in size with a golf course view; 61 oceanfront residential lots; 331 multi-family lots for either single family or town homes with 200 boat slips; 119 lakefront lots; 144 multi-family, condo flats or commercial plots; a beach club; and Town Centre, which features a yacht club, marina with 200 slips; casino; condo flats; retail; restaurants; Customs and Immigration posts; a Harbour Master's office; and fuel 41 and docking facilities.
The Port St George develoopers will also provide a water treatment and reverse osmosis plant; golf course and golf course clubhouse; athletic it fields; and nursery.
However, Mr Moorcroft reiterated that this design concept was "bound to be varied it along the way". Pointing out that the Port St George site covers land running from the Atlantic ocean side of Long Island to Exuma Sound, Mr Moorcroft added: "The Port St George site incorporates Phase II, stage six of the Stella Maris subdivision, and 950 acres of new land."
When asked how he and fellow Port St George director and principal, Jonathan w Houghton, became interested in the Long Island development, Mr Moorcoft replied: "It's actually a rather strange story." Explaining that the pair were both UK citizens, he continued: "Myself and my co-director in the project both live in Andorra. A couple that also lived in Andorra decided
they'd seen enough snow, and 13 took a second home in the Bahamas. They bought on the Stella Maris estate." The couple learnt that Joerg Friese, owner and operator of the Stella Maris, was looking to retire and there was an opportunity to develop the unfinished areas that had been first included in that resort's masterplan. "They told us: 'We think we've stumbled on an opportunity here, but property development is what you do'," recalled Mr Moorcroft. After receiving that news in Spring 2004,
Mr Moorcroft and his business partner got to work, spending two years on the Port St George project before approval in principle was granted in summer 2007.
He explained that Caribbean Heights was effectively a different, but complementary, project to Port St George, and would be situated on a site earmarked for hotel development on the Stella Mans site plan of 40 years ago. This development, though, had never occurred.
The main principal behind the Caribbean Heights project was another UK citizen living in Andorra, chartered surveyor Mark Nash. Mr Moorcroft said that while involved with Caribbean Heights, he was the "driving" force behind Port St George.
Caribbean Heights, according to information on the developer's website, was initially conceived as an 188-unit condo hotel and spa, to be located on an 18.8 acre site in Phase III, section two, of the Stella Maris subdivision.
"Caribbean Heights is conditional on the Port St George project going ahead," Mr Moorcroft said. "It's not felt economically viable for Caribbean Heights to proceed without the marina, the golf course, at Port St George going forward.
"The important infrastructure, the important facilities that will bring, will make Caribbean Heights become a viable project."
Ultimately, the agreement with Mr Friese and his partners will leave them still in control of the existing Stella Maris Resort and Stella Maris Air Service, while Mr Moorcroft, Mr Houghton and their group take over the land development component with their projects.
Mr Moorcroft detailed his history in property development, which has been mainly located in the UK. He added that he had been working on a 146-unit residential development in South Africa when the Long Island opportunity came up, and "exited that project early" to-devote his time to the Bahamas.
"We've experience of projects outside the UK before. We do try and stay with English-speaking countries, and where property law is based on English law," Mr Moorcroft said.
He added that if it went ahead, Port St George would provide a major boost to the Long Island economy from its sheer dollar impact, increased visitor traffic and spending, and enhanced employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians and Long Islanders.
Hoping that the project would encourage Long Islanders who had left in search of employment to return home, and provide jobs for graduates from the island's schools, Mr Moorcroft acknowledged that Port St George and Caribbean Heights "will inevitably bring change to certain aspects of life".
Yet having traveled extensively throughout Long Island over the past three years to gauge residents' opinions, Mr Moorcroft said most were "looking for and welcoming investment in the island".
"We have consistently had feedback that local people definitely want this, and we don't want to be putting together a project that flies in the face of local opinion," Mr Moorcroft said.
"We've been as careful as we can to listen to local sensitivities, and work with these local sensitivities in the project we've put together. We're very encouraged by the positive reaction we've heard from Long Islanders who knew about this project."
He added: "The initial signs are very encouraging. Long Islanders are hard working, industrious people, who are very entrepreneurial. They are not just interested in jobs, but having opportunities to create their own businesses."
Mr Moorcroft said Long Islanders with land near the Stella Maris resort were looking to construct housing for construction and full-time workers who would be employed at Port St George and Caribbean Heights, will purchasers of lots in the Stella Maris subdivision were looking to do the same thing.
Source: The Tribune