By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Sarkis Izmirlian is targeting a “substantial” jobs and GDP impact with a 333-acre mixed-use development at Clifton Bay that is focused on “sustainability” and environmental preservation.
Tribune Business can reveal that Baha Mar’s original developer is back in Bahamian real estate development via a proposed project called The Preserve, located in southwestern New Providence near Jaws Beach.
Mr Izmirlian has teamed with Tom Dunlap, his former Baha Mar president, to produce a “very low density” development on land he is understood to have acquired last year. While similar in size to the nearby 363-acre South Ocean resort, this newspaper was informed that the duo are aiming for a “live, work, play” concept that embraces traditional Bahamian living.
A spokesman for The Preserve told Tribune Business yesterday that the project will be developed over a 15-year build-out, with the pace dictated by demand for its office, retail and residential offerings.
While unable to give precise figures on The Preserve’s total investment, economic and job creation impact as Mr Izmirlian and his team are still “running the numbers”, the spokesman said the benefits for The Bahamas would be “substantial”.
The Preserve is now awaiting the necessary regulatory approvals and permits from the government to proceed, with the go-ahead set to mark Mr Izmirlian’s comeback in the eyes of many Bahamians from the trials he endured over his multi-billion dollar vision for Cable Beach’s redevelopment.
The Preserve is Mr Izmirlian’s first Bahamas-based project since his controversial ousting from the Baha Mar project by his erstwhile Chinese government partners, aided and abetted by the former Christie administration.
The spokesman for The Preserve told Tribune Business of his new venture: “The sustainability of it is going to be paramount. It will have a real minimal impact on the environment. It will be very low density, and very focused on nature trails, hiking and walking paths. They will only be moving trees if they have to.
“There’s going to be a live, work, play element. There’s going to be a corporate side with a living side and boutique hotel side over a 15-year build-out. The first phase will be the village, which will have a little bit of retail, a little bit of commercial, and a little bit of residential.
“The idea is for it to be replicating buildings in the old Bahamian communities with lots of porches, verandahs. They want to bring that sense of community back, where you can walk to your neighbour’s, walk to the coffee shop.”
The spokesman added that Mr Izmirlian and Mr Dunlap were designing The Preserve so that it catered to the needs of all residents and unit owners, effectively providing an all-encompassing concierge-type service.
“We want to make it easy for people to put condos in a pool so they can be managed,” they said. “If you’re a small business owner, graphic designer and want an office component to your home, these things can be looked at.
“The idea is to try and make sure this is something accessible - whether it’s a business professional who wants to live there and make an investment, foreign residents coming to live here for six months of the year or a second home.”
Emphasising that The Preserve’s residential units will be targeted at a mix of Bahamian and foreign buyers, the spokesman said price points were still being finalised. “The economic models are still being run,” they added, “but the investment and employment - both full-time and construction - will be substantial.”
Recycling and renewable energy will also be key components of The Preserve’s development. The project will not be located right on southwestern New Providence’s waterfront, but will instead have waterfront views out across Clifton Bay thanks to the site’s 60-foot elevation.
One realtor, speaking to Tribune Business on condition of anonymity, said Messrs Izmirlian and Dunlap were “bound to have figured out” the market they are going after given their extensive track records in large-scale real estate development.
The “live, work, play” concept is nothing new for either New Providence or The Bahamas. David Kosoy’s Sterling Global Financial is eyeing a similar concept with its Hurricane Hole redevelopment on Paradise Island, and elements of The Preserve will face competition from similar commercial office and other developments that continue to spring up in western New Providence.
However, demand to live and work in New Providence remains strong and shows no sign of decreasing, with many companies seeking to move out of Nassau and escape the overcrowding, congestion and high crime levels afflicting the Bahamian capital.
Many observers will also likely see Mr Izmirlian’s re-emergence as a major player in Bahamian real estate development as a sign of the Lyford Cay resident’s commitment to The Bahamas despite all the blows he has suffered in recent years.
Mr Izmirlian’s sights are also extending beyond The Bahamas, with media reports earlier this year disclosing that he had invested $26.4m to purchase real estate in Miami’s up-and-coming Wynwood area for a mixed use project there.