Sandyport continues to expand with hotel plans

Thursday December 2nd, 2010
Sandyport development layout

Sandyport development layout

With an upturn in commercial and residential rental demand over the last six months, the Sandyport Development Company yesterday said it "feels now is a good time to invest" in the construction of more properties for the market.

Garth Buckner, its president, also said the Sandyport developer "remains ready to move when the time is right" on its approved plans to build a hotel within its western New Providence community, but believes it will have to "wait a little longer" for enough confidence to return to the financial markets for this to be feasible.

The plans for a $250 million hotel - to be called Grande Palm Beach Resort - received government approval around 2007, and were anticipated to include 440 rooms.

Mr Buckner said Sandyport in its current form is "doing rather well considering the economic climate", having seen the rental market for both its commercial and residential space "come back" in the last six months after a slump following the 2008 "peak".

Sandyport Development Company has recently embarked on the construction of more of its own residential units to be offered for rent, with five of these currently under construction, as well as additional commercial space to the tune of 7,250 square feet, which is either "completed or nearing completion", having been initiated within the last six months.

"We're seeing interest in both commercial space and in residential space. Most of the space that's owned and rented by us is commercial; we don't have much residential, but in terms of Sandyport as a market overall - the units owned privately and the units we do own - the interest is up," said Mr Buckner.

Leasing of commercial space, that already established and under development in Sandyport, presently hovers at around a "solid" 90 per cent from month to month.

The company finished installation of infrastructure for its phase five subdivision some time ago and the "building out of homes is proceeding nicely" in this area, added Mr Buckner.

"We remain committed to developing out Sandyport and are ready to move when the timing's right, regarding the hotel and the next phase," he added.

"On the hotel front it's difficult to gauge the market. Each time we think things are about to change and get better something happens somewhere in the world. To develop a project like this you really need the financial markets to have a high degree of confidence. We think that's going to return, but we think we have to wait a little bit longer until we're there."

Mr Buckner said he feels Sandyport and the Bahamas at large will be "well positioned to take advantage of an upswing" in the global economy when it comes through.

Baha Mar, he suggested, will "overall be very positive for the Bahamas", admitting that while he "understands some of the reservations" it is "on balance best for the project to move forward".

"The belief that we are a one-horse town and that the market is not large enough to sustain further hotel development here is a myth," Mr Buckner said.

"Tourism has been the fastest growing segment of the world economy for some time now, and the fact that the Bahamas has not shared in that growth is quite telling. We simply need to do more if we're going to compete.

"People are right to worry about filling additional rooms, but we need to understand that in the long run the market is there. It's a matter of connecting with that market and selling to them. This is where we should place our efforts."

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