30 years on, hotelier still seeking answers on million-dollar investment
Anyone taking a cursory glance at the Regency Cove Hotel along the Hastings, Christ Church main road, immediately recognizes a property badly in need of repairs.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, operator Hal Martin admitted the over 30-year-old property required an upgrade, but said he was unable to do anything because he did not have title to the property and was seeking answers.
According to Martin, the issue began in the late 1980’s when he got permission to develop the area where he also owned other properties. At the time, the businessman said he was a member of Mega Centre, a US group that wanted to invest approximately $75 million to develop a 600-room hotel in the area.
The Government, however, denied permission.
“I had permission to do a 12-storey [hotel]. I had financing. What happened is the Government had to invite the American agency to invest that amount of money here . . . . Mega Centre was liaising with the Barbados Development Bank (BDB) to send them an invitation to allow them to invest the $75 million here and they wouldn’t entertain them,” he said.
Martin said he subsequently applied for and was granted a loan of more than $1 million from the BDB to carry out the development himself. However, he said when BDB closed operations, he was left without title to the property and no word on the status of his loan, despite numerous checks with various officials. As a result, he had to place his plans for developing the property on hold.
“Nobody would entertain us. The only person who did was [former Prime Minister] David Thompson and he died before we completed the transaction. So we are waiting now to find out what we owe, if we owe, so we can go ahead and develop our property,” Martin told Barbados TODAY.
“We owed the BDB at the time about $1.6 million. We are still waiting to find out what the status is. We can’t find anybody to talk to us. We don’t even know where the title is . . . . We can’t move ahead. We can’t find the title. We ask if we owe anything and nobody knows. They don’t know where the files are, nothing,” lamented Martin, declaring he has been owner of the Regency Cove facility for more than 30 years.
Asked how business was, Martin replied: “There is no more business.”
“We are just here. We need to upgrade the plant,” he added. “We are looking to develop, but we can’t.”
Stating that he also owned the former Windsor Hotel for about 26 years, Martin said the bank sold that property, where Lanterns Mall stands today, and he was still awaiting word on that transaction.
“I have not had a statement on it as yet and this is now over ten years [since it has been sold]; how much they got, what we owe, what they owe, no statement on it. They would only do that to a small black businessman because we don’t have the resources to fight them in court,” he said.
Martin said he owned other properties in the Hastings area that were included in the plan for the 600-room hotel, which was to be on both sides of the road.
“I am not even going to talk about my project. This is 27 years ago, you know. And not only did I have the project, I had the financing from the United States Department of Commerce but they said no little black man can be allowed to move a project like that . . .” he said.
“We had permission to build a bridge and all of that in 1987. And a group got together here in Barbados through the Barbados Development Bank and say they can’t allow that by a black man. Those are their words,” he charged, adding that it would have created hundreds of jobs and set a high standard.
Martin estimated that the cost to develop such a property now would be about $600 million, up from between $75 and $100 million 27 years ago.