By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Sebas Bastian’s Brickell Management Group (BMG) has entered the public-private partnership (PPP) market through a contract to construct a new “multi-purpose” government office complex on Harbour Island.
Paul Major, BMG’s president and managing director, confirmed to Tribune Business that work on the project was set to begin “within weeks”, with the new offices to be built on the site of the existing complex.
He also reassured concerned Brilanders that the project did not involve demolition of the historic Commissioner’s residence on Dunmore Street, and its replacement with the new office complex, as several contacts had suggested to Tribune Business.
“It’s not the ex-Commissioner’s residence,” Mr Major told Tribune Business of the location for BMG’s PPP project. “That’s a protected site and an historical site. No, no. That’s across the street. We’re not going to touch it.
“That stately looking building, although dilapidated, no one’s touching that. I spoke to Courtney Strachan at the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC), and he said they were developing plans to restore and rebuild that.”
The AMMC last year partnered with the University of Miami School of Architecture to assess the historical significance of the Commissioner’s residence, and the potential for its restoration and future preservation.
The property had accommodated commissioners, or island administrators, from 1900, was also Governor Dunmore’s residence from 1786 to 1797. Its history also involves hosting receptions for former colonial governors, and other key events.
Mr Major, meanwhile, said the construction plans called for the demolition of Harbour Island’s existing government office complex, which features the local administrator’s office, courts, police station and apartments for police officers.
“All that will come down, and we’ll build a new, multipurpose government office complex where the current one is,” he confirmed to Tribune Business.
Mr Major said BMG was exploring the possibility of bringing in temporary trailers to accommodate impacted police and government officials while construction took place, noting the “scarcity of space” on Harbour Island.
He added that the plans for the new complex consisted solely of offices for the local administrator and police, plus the jail and court facilities, with officer accommodation not included.
Mr Major said the new government offices would cost “at least a couple of million dollars” to construct, describing the PPP project as “quite a sizeable building” that would “take up most of the existing space”.
He added that demolition of the existing government building was still being priced, with BMG seeking to employ as many sub-contractors and vendors from Harbour Island and Eleuthera as possible.
“We will take some of our equipment,” Mr Major said, “but what’s on the island in terms of labour, resources and equipment, we’ll seek to employ it. We’re starting to ask around for electricians, plumbers and the like. We’ve got people scouting around.”
He noted that the Harbour Island project presented potential logistics challenges, given its distance from Nassau and issues in transporting manpower and equipment, adding: “If you’re short one jack hammer, you’ve lost two days.”
Mr Major said between 12-15 construction workers were likely to be employed on the Harbour Island government offices project.
The Government is increasingly turning to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to meet its real estate and infrastructure needs, in the belief that it will reduce or eliminate a heavy demand on the Public Treasury.
Rather than use increasingly scarce taxpayer funds to finance the construction of government office buildings, especially given its strained fiscal position, the Government is turning to private capital and entrepreneurs.
It is entering into contracts where private investors/developers will finance and construct new government buildings, then lease them to the Government for a set period of time, so they can recover their investment and earn a profitable return.
Under these contracts, which are typically referred to as build/own/operate/transfer or (BOOT) arrangements, the properties are turned over to Government ownership, once the period for the developer to regain his capital and maintain the site has expired.
The proposed Road Traffic Department headquarters on Tonique Williams Highway, and new Post Office site at the Independence Drive shopping centre, where the old City Markets store was based, are two examples of PPPs.
Mr Major said he thought the Harbour Island contract was for a seven-year BOOT arrangement, confirming that the project was the first PPP arrangement between the Government and Brickell.
When asked whether Brickell would seek similar deals with the Government elsewhere, he added: “Possibly, if we’re minded to do so.
“We’ll certainly consider it. We have the infrastructure to do it. We have the equipment and construction company to do it.”
BMG is the property development, management and construction company launched by Island Luck chief executive, Sebas Bastian.
Its real estate developments include the Venetian West out at Old Fort Bay, and the Venito West at Westridge. BMG also manages a property portfolio that includes Aventura Plaza on JFK Drive, plus assets on Madeira Street and Rosetta Street.
Apart from Messrs Bastian and Major, BMG’s Board in 2014 included Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) chief executive, Leon Williams; IBM (Bahamas) executive, Felix Stubbs; Atlantis PR chief, Ed Fields; and political aspirant, Cassius Stuart.