By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Land values of $1 million per acre have transformed Carmichael into the Bahamas’ “fastest growing” real estate market, one realtor disclosing that a fast food brand had been induced to not only establish multiple locations but develop its own shopping plaza in the area.
Matt Sweeting, of Bahama Islands Realty, told Tribune Business that rapid population growth had seen “an influx of inventory” - both residential and commercial - hit the area surrounding Carmichael Road over the last 12-24 months.
Pointing to Domino’s Pizza’s decision to establish three locations on Carmichael Road - between Golden Gates and Coral Harbour - as evidence of heightened business activity in the area, with the potential of more to come, Mr Sweeting said law firms and commercial banks were also recognising New Providence’s demographic shift.
And he added that the increased demand for commercial space in Carmichael had enabled him to rent out one shopping plaza, on the developer’s behalf, within just 45 days of the units coming on to the market.
Noting that Carmichael Road’s increasingly commercial characteristics had helped to drive real estate prices, Mr Sweeting told Tribune Business: “What you bought 10 years ago in Carmichael is today worth $1 million. The real estate prices have drastically changed.
“I represented a client that did own some farmland down there, and we sold one acre of land 45 days ago for $1.2 million. That is a bit of an indication of what land is worth - $1 million an acre. That’s pretty big.
“Carmichael, from Golden Gates up to Coral Harbour, has seen an influx of inventory over the last 12-24 months,” he added. “There’s companies such as Domino’s Pizza, which has three locations on one strip - from Golden Gates to main Carmichael and Coral Harbour. That’s testimony to the amount of business out there, and the changing demographics from one end of that street to the other.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of activity. Years ago, professional firms like attorneys’ offices would not even consider Carmichael, and now there are three-four attorneys’ offices there. That’s further testimony to the population shift to Carmichael Road.”
Other businesses have also been attracted to the Golden Gates and Carmichael areas. FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) has opened a branch in the area, as has Royal Bank of Canada and FINCO, with Scotiabank (Bahamas) and Bank of the Bahamas International set to follow shortly.
CGT Construction developed the Southwest Shopping Plaza using a build/own/operate-type model, and this has attracted similar projects to the area. Benchmark (Bahamas) made its first foray into real estate at the corner of Faith Avenue and Carmichael Road, and many plaza developers are now in the throes of trying to lease their “last bit of inventory”.
Mr Sweeting told Tribune Business: “For me personally I’ve been working with companies looking to move enterprises there. I’ve been working with two fast food chains attracted by Carmichael Road, and looking to increase their footprint in the area.
“One of those companies has purchased land, and has not only decided to put their second location on Carmichael Road but also invest in developing a commercial plaza on that road. This is big businessmen telling you: ‘This is where it’s at.’ They’ve done their feasibility studies, and believe they can make millions.”
Mr Sweeting declined to name either of the fast food companies. But he acknowledged the relative success plaza/shopping centre developers in the Carmichael area were continuing to enjoy despite the anemic economy.
Recalling one property he acted as leasing agent for, opposite Meat Max on Carmichael Road, Mr Sweeting told Tribune Business: “We rented the plaza in less than 45 days. There were six units in the building, and we rented two retail spaces, two office spaces and the owner kept a space for himself. We rented that pretty quickly.”
Having represented several Carmichael property owners in selling large land tracts, and acted in deals involving banks and churches, Mr Sweeting said the area’s status as the leading real estate market in the Bahamas could not be doubted. “We can say for sure that it’s the fastest growing,” he added.
Agreeing that western New Providence generally, and not just Carmichael, was the main source of real estate action currently, Mr Sweeting said developments such as Lyford Hills, Serenity, Westridge and South Ocean Estates continued to add significant amounts of inventory.
The area continues to be attractive for both businesses and homeowners, as they seek a better quality of life away from Nassau’s congestion, plus easier access to amenities such as the airport.
“The west has been my best market,” Mr Sweeting told Tribune Business. “Whether it’s condo units or other sales, they’ve all been in the west. All my sales, no matter what aspect of real estate, have been in the west.”