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$20-$30m Investment At Last Hotel Corp Hotel

By NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor AN ILLINOIS-based investor is eyeing a $20-$30 million investment during the first two phases of its plans to transform the last Hotel Corporation-owned property into an upscale boutique resort, with talks aiming to reach an 'agreement in principle' set to be held as early as this week. Michael Scott, the Hotel Corporation's chairman, told Tribune Business that with the revised Heads of Agreement for the I-Group's Mayaguana project now behind himself and the Government, he was turning his attention to talks with Scheck Industries over its proposal to redevelop the Andros-based Lighthouse Club. Suggesting that the current 30-strong Lighthouse Club workforce could be "tripled, quadrupled" if Scheck's plans and development phases came to full fruition, Mr Scott said both he and the Government were determined for something to happen, given that Andros's economy needed such a development "badly". He added that selling the Lighthouse Club to a buyer with the right plans for the property would also eliminate the $500,000 that the Hotel Corporation was losing annually in keeping the property open. "There is a proposal which has been made to government, and which the Government is actually considering with a view, subject to clarification, to accept the offer," Mr Scott told Tribune Business. "It will be phased, with an initial tract of 80 acres, and subject to timelines and milestones for development being met, there will be additional [land] options. All of our deals are going to be phased from now on." Mr Scott explained that this approach would ensure developers fulfilled their obligations and promises, and avoid large tracts of prime Bahamian real estate being tied up for decades with little to no development activity happening - harming the Bahamian economy. He added that Scheck Industries was proposing a $20-$30 million investment over the first two phases of its Lighthouse Club redevelopment, and acknowledged that both the property and wider Andros economy required such a project "badly". Mr Scott said the resort effectively had "to be gutted and reconfigured, adding: "We'd like to get something going." He told Tribune Business that the Hotel Corporation/the Government was hoping to agree the "broad principals" and parameters of a deal with Scheck and its representatives this week. The "fleshed out" proposal, once an agreement in principal was reached following clarifications on an outstanding "one or two points", would be taken through the approval stages of the Bahamas Investment Authority and other government bodies prior to a Heads of Agreement being signed. Mr Scott said he was looking for the Lighthouse Club to be redeveloped in line with his, and the Government's vision, for Family Island resort projects to be modelled along the line of niche, boutique hotels that fit in with the population density and characteristics of surrounding communities. "If we can get something going along that boutique line - a spa, marina, shopping village - at the Lighthouse Club in Andros, possibly a bonefishing club of some kind, that's another step in the right direction," he told Tribune Business. "Right now, I think they employ 30 people there at the Lighthouse Club. That would probably triple, quadruple at least, if they have consistent development phases. "They're [Scheck Industries] going to start with a complete revamping of the marina, then the docks, adding enough slips to bring in 50 boats, revamping marina operations and going from there," Mr Scott added. "A spa, a bonefish lodge, recreational fishing, that sort of stuff." Mr Scott said Scheck's project proposal was likely to lead to the creation of an aviation Fixed Base Operation (FBO) nearby, and provide numerous spin-off entrepreneurial and employment opportunities, such as bonefishing guides, for Androsians. As for the Hotel Corporation's large real estate holdings in Eleuthera, Mr Scott said little had happened in terms of achieving development deals for those properties. "We did have some Italians looking at doing something at Half Sound, but never got beyond the initial meeting," he told Tribune Business.

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