Projects on hold

by Shawn Cumberbatch

blackbessThe stalled Four Seasons Project is not alone.

With negotiations for the outright sale of the aforementioned Black Rock, St. Michael venture ongoing, at least two other major luxury developments earmarked for Barbados — one now in receivership and hunting a buyer and the other awaiting new planning approvals — are also on hold.

About 240 acres of Black Bess Plantation Lands in St. Peter intended for a $600 million branded hotel, villa and golf course project, are now in the hands of receivers. And in turn Christopher Sombrano and Craig Waterman representing PricewaterhouseCoopers have hired three real estate companies to find a purchaser for the property which has been partially development.

Barbados TODAY also confirmed that the planned Beachlands upscale residential development to be constructed on the beachside in Holetown, St. James is yet to receive new “consent” from local planning officials.

In the case of Black Bess, originally to be developed by Bacassa Developments (Barbados) Limited before it fell into receivership, potential buyers local and foreign are being enticed to make an acquisition based not simply on its existing planning permission for luxury hotel and spa, 124 private villas and an 18-hole golf course, but a number of alternative options including subdivision of the large land area with a view of the West Coast.

“Whereas the current approved plans provide for a hotel, villa and golf course development scenario, the opportunity also exists to undertake a more straightforward residential development approach. This would entail the subdivision of the site into a number of residential pods, each offering a number of unimproved residential parcels for sale.

“Initial estimates have contemplated seven development pods totaling approximately 30 acres each, with a total of 900 individual parcels when fully developed,” a new offering memorandum stated

Local planning requirements for such a scheme generally include the installation of relevant services, roads, water, electricity etcetera, and the satisfactory provision of a minimum amount of green space within the subdivision. The existing eight acre excavated lake would conceivably satisfy all or a portion of this requirement and also provide an attractive feature to the development.

“This approach would allow the developer to phase the development and to time the release of product into the market as demand dictates. It also provides for the creation of a wider spectrum of parcel sizes and prices by virtue of the various locations within the site, thereby broadening the market segments to which the development could be marketed and sold,” it added. Specific suggested options included offering “the foreign luxury market and high net worth local purchasers” land parcels of between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet, while targeting local buyers with 6,000 to 10,000 square feet of land.

“The option to offer bulk sales for a few of the pods also exists, in which case the developer could impose minimum development standards on any sold parcels in order to manage the impact of such sales on the value of the remain lands. In addition to the flexibility that this development option presents, the overall infrastructural costs would be considerably lower than other development alternatives,” the document noted.

Beachlands on the other hand, which is to be built on more than four acres and was to originally include 40 apartments and six penthouses, had to go back to the drawing board and it’s plans to start construction this year are now in the hands of Barbadians authorities. Pat Gill, Construction Direction at one of the British companies involved in this venture, UK&European Investments, told Barbados TODAY they were all keen to get things started, but had no control over when they could start.

“We submitted a revised planning application last fall hoping to have a quick turn around to allow us to get on with the project. Unfortunately we still don’t have the consent so until we do we can’t estimate timescales. We want to get on with this project and want to start this year,” she said.

It is also understood that a number of other projects on the West Coast and elsewhere in Barbados are also on hold for various reasons, a fact which could impact what the Central Bank of Barbados has identified as the $523 million in net capital inflows “both the private sector and government” need this year.

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