Government officials and representatives of the international development company, Grand Palm Beach Acquisitions Limited (a subsidiary of Skyline Investments) assembled at the St. Mary Magdalene Parish Hall in West End on Friday evening to host a town hall meeting, for the benefit of discussing with residents in that area, the proposed development of the former Ginn Sur Mer Project.
Speaking to a fully packed room of residents of Grand Bahama, particularly those residing in the immediate area, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Skyline Investments Danny Rothman, said the intent moving forward is to afford residents of West End and, by extension the rest of Grand Bahama, to hold key positions in the operation, “providing a number of economic opportunities for themselves and their families.”
“This evening we have been requested by government to let you participate in the vision of Grand Palm Beach Acquisitions Limited which is a subsidiary of Skyline, on what we want to do in the site which was formerly the Ginn Project which we hope, will conclude soon.
“The purpose of this meeting today, is, prior to signing the Heads of Agreement (HOA) with the government, the government would like for you to participate with us on our vision, and ask as many questions as you want, on our vision and what we want to do on this site.
“This town meeting is to explain who we were and what the proposed development would mean to the residents and community of West End, moving forward.” he said.
A video presentation of the proposed development was made. It informed that Skyline Investments is a Canadian public company, with a rare world class portfolio, with destination communities with hospitality properties. It furthered that the idea is to create yet another highly desirable destination in West End, which will be known as ‘Grand Bahama Bay’.
The video detailed the proposed plans for Grand Bahama Bay, inclusive of the amenities that it will provide.
With a 2,000 acres master planned resort community, with over half a billion dollars of infrastructure is already in place, the property will include a private airport and a 6,000 foot runway; the privilege of on site customs and immigration; new 18 hole 74 hundred yard Arnold Palmer Golf Course; and a new ‘Smart City’ high tech innovation center.
The existing Old Bahama Bay Resort, two marinas including a new 16 foot draft one thousand slip mega yacht marina, 584 fully serviced residential lots and a Ritz Carlton Resort Hotel, and sites for a total of four hotels and resorts, are anticipated as the finished product, over a 10 year time span.
“Hopefully, today will be the first day that we become a part of the community of West End,” stated Rothman.
He noted that one of Skyline’s first endeavors is to to work on the marina that functions today.
“Old Bahama Bay, as far as we are concerned will be called the Village, in Bahama Bay. We intend to make it a year round destination. At the moment, there is an uncertainty; the peak season is the summer and, in the winter, everything is slow.”
He noted that the proposed development will also have a commercial center, inclusive of shops, supermarket, restaurants and other amenities.
“This commercial center, we are going to partner with the community because the community will run it, according to Bahamian law. We will be partnering with you, bringing it up to high standards and the community will run it.
“We are going to build a Ritz Carlton Hotel and a Ritz Carlton residence. This is going to be the central core. We will have the village side and the central core. Until we start building and get the stability of an international brand, anybody will think that we are not serious.
“This has been a project that failed in 2008. It had a bad reputation. Therefore we want to make a statement to the public, to the international public that we are building a Ritz Carlton and we have a very good relationship.”
In terms of the proposed marina, he noted that it will be different from any that is exists today in The Bahamas. He explained that a “home based marina” will be established.
“A home based marina means that people lodge their boats here, all year round, they fuel them here and they base them here.”
He added that along the marina will be built a promenade with shops, and other amenities, and again noted that whatever is built, the community will play an active role in it its success.
“Minister Thompson (Minister of State within the Office of the Prime Minister) has pioneered that Grand Bahama should be a high tech hub,” he pointed out and Skyline Investments he noted is highly experienced in the field of technology, having such technological developments already established in Israel. He said the property in West End will be established in the same way as well.
He also shared that it is the investor’s intention to make the development a green sustainable energy community, where solar energy will be utilized, which he expressed is a very important factor of the development.
Additionally, Skyline will construct a hurricane shelter for residents of the West End community to be utilized in the event of a storm, as well as an academy of sorts for persons to obtain degrees in the hospitality industry.
“There are some really great people here and they want to be general managers of big hotel chains. There is no reason why, people that live in this community, if they have the opportunity cannot achieve that.
“I have been here for 11 months and I have enjoyed this community.
“We are a part of this community. We know that we know how to invest, but you know West End better than us, so we have a lot to learn from you, to be able to achieve the end result. This is a partnership. We are the developer. Skyline does not know West End better than you. This is a joint effort where we must work together,” stated Rothman.
He concluded by thanking key persons throughout The Bahamas, who have been instrumental in the proposed development moving forward in the West end community.
Director of Operations for Skyline Investments for this proposed development, Derek Gape spoke of his connection to the investment organization.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Danny (Rothman) about nine months ago, since he started here, and I have been working very hard with him, very diligently and The Bahamas government, particularly within the last month or so.
“We know at the outset that one of the main, crucial assets to this property is to get the golf course going. Along with the golf course and the main boulevard, and the guardhouse, there has to be some major work done there. All of the very expensive landscaping and beautification that took place during the Ginn days is just pretty much gone away.
“The immediate needs are to fix it the way it was before, make the guardhouse beautiful and make it the really grand entry that it once was.
“All of this will involve a lot of local help and of course will put people to work right away.
“There are a lot of immediate repairs that have to be undertaken. With the first 14 months, first and foremost, one of the crucial areas, as Mr. Rothman explained is Old Bahama Bay, in order to enhance the experience of Old Bahama Bay.”
He further explained specifically that the proposed structure will comprise a two story structure with 120 rooms, the first floor housing retail spaces.
“This we expect will be somewhere in the area of $30 million and as a part of that development, the intention is to develop the bay, just on the other side of where the existing marina is.
“When that is done, the construction of The Village Hotel, will take place.
“We believe that the most important aspect of The Old Bahama Bay, and West End is the marine dockage. We know that 90 percent of the people who visit West End and Old Bahama Bay come by boat. Very few people come to West End because they have flown in. The main focus will be the marine experience. Construction of the Village Hotel will all take place within 14 months of approval by government and an agreement to proceed,” said Gape.
A question and answer period was afforded to the residents and where many shared comments and concerns with the proposed development. Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini Pakesia Parker Edgecombe brought concluding remarks.
“We thought it important to bring this town meeting to West End and we thank the investors for agreeing to host it. We want all of us work together in partnership. Mr. Rothman would have indicated that it is essential for us to come together as partners. We cannot do it without them and they cannot do it without us.
“We believe that investors coming into our community, (as he would have indicated, we know West End better than anyone else) and if we are to guide our investors, moving forward, no matter who they are, I think that a lot of the projects that we do see coming on stream will be very successful.
“We want you to have first hand information so that you can know for yourself, rather than hearing it on the street. This opportunity tonight allowed you to do just that.
“I want to encourage you all to continue to be very inquisitive and curious about what is coming into your community. We wish to also make sure that at the end of the day, everyone benefits.
“We believe in making opportunities for our children, our residents and to have a secure future. West End is the capital, and as I would have mentioned many years ago, we are going to ensure that they realize that,” she said.
Following the Town Meeting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. Peter Turnquest shared his view on the meeting and the proposed Skyline Investments development for this northern island.
“I am very excited about the level of participation here by the community and the plans put forth by the developers. What is very unique about the presentation that they have made today is the level of local community involvement that they have stressed, that they want in this project. The question was asked about access to the property and access to the beach. The developer has indicated that there is unrestricted access to the property and to the beach and I think that is very unique, because normally in these kinds of developments, they try to keep the residents to one side or try to keep them from being involved with the guests. This is a very historic community and part of the charm of West End is the fact that guests will get to intermingle with the local community.
“I think that some of the fears that people may have with respect to the local indigenous businesses being impacted by what is on the property, I believe, will quickly go away, because again, the guests will be able to easily access the indigenous businesses and mix with the people of West End who have a history and culture of hospitality.
“This overall project is very exciting for West End and for Grand Bahama and it signals the beginning of the turnaround that we have been talking about for Grand Bahama. We are very excited about this project and what it means for this community.
“I know that there are some developmental challenges that have come along the way. There will be some conflict, from time to time, but, the very fact that the developer has agreed to hold this town meeting, indicates to me, and signals their willingness to participate and interact with the community.
“I think it was a wonderful event. I think it gives a great signal to what kind of development that can happen in Grand Bahama, West End in particular.
“One of the things that we decided was, before we sign the Heads of Agreement (HOA), we wanted to share with the community because again, this is a partnership. Having done that tonight, getting the kinds of favourable responses that the community has given to the project, we can move full speed ahead now, to finalize the HOA and have it signed.
“The whole build-out of the project will be about 10 years. Within the next few months we should see the hotel project development and the redesigned marina out of the ground and operational. That means that there is going to be long term benefits to the community, but, even before that, I am very excited about the level of jobs that will be created in the development stage.
“In the first stage, with the restoration of the landscaping, we are talking about people who can participate from the lower skilled to the higher skilled and I think that is important. We want it to to be inclusive, to make sure that everybody in the community benefits,” said Turnquest.
Minister of State Sen. Hon. Kwasi Thompson added, “The government thought it was very important to come to West End and to ensure that the developers made their case to the West End community and that is exactly what happened today.
“The developer spoke to the details of their plans and gave the community a good picture of what they are going to do and the residents were well-receiving of it. They asked very good questions, but I believe that the residents saw that there are great opportunities here.
“The employment levels are going to go up, the construction activity is going to go up, the retail activity is going to go up, the tourism product is going to go up and so we believe that this development is going to provide great opportunity. We are very pleased tonight that the developers came, spoke directly to the people, which is exactly what the government wanted them to do.
“We are going to work very hard to ensure that the development comes to fruition and see the real opportunities on the ground be provided for the local residents, here on Grand Bahama,” promised Thompson.