By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamas-based developer is aiming to capitalise on $80m in pre-existing infrastructure investments by starting vertical construction on its high-end Abaco boutique resort before year-end.
Bill Green, president of Sterling Global Financial, the group spearheading the Montage Cay and Marina project on Matt Lowe's Cay, said the marina and pre-existing infrastructure provided a first-class platform for a project that will hire "hundreds" of construction workers.
"This is an island that had a tremendous amount of infrastructure put in," he said. "As you can see, about ten years ago a marina was excavated and there was about $80m of infrastructure put in with fibre optic cable. There is a switching station put in there that happens to be the switching station for Hope Town, for Man O’ War Cay, and for some of the other smaller cays.
“My company, Sterling, became involved about eight years ago and ended up with ownership of the project, so we were handed a brilliant island that had all of the infrastructure that one would want. Essentially, we were ready for vertical. So we began a process in 2018.
"We wanted to find a good operating partner, and after engaging with 12 of the world’s premier hotel groups we ended up deciding to work with Montage, which is a boutique, high-end, sort of six-star hotel operator," Mr Green continued.
"I would put them on a par, in terms of luxury class, with an Aman, for example, and they have been absolutely marvellous to our quest. We have engaged with them since fall of 2018. We are working on plans right now. We’re going into the ground on infrastructure, and then for the vertical for this calendar year subject to approvals.
“We have some estate lots for sale, we have some villas and we have a hotel, four restaurants, a spa and other recreational amenities."
Dr Hubert Minnis, in his contribution to the 2020-2021 budget debate, said Sterling, which is also redeveloping Paradise Island's Hurricane Hole property, had been given preliminary government permission to proceed with a $352.2m investment that will create 250 full-time jobs and 2,970 posts across the life of the project’s construction.
Bahamas-headquartered Sterling, which is chaired by David Kosoy, has according to the Prime Minister already taken "title” to Matt Lowe’s Cay ahead of its planned $40m acquisition. The purchase was to be completed through a Sterling affiliate, Sterling Montage Ltd, with the project to be known as Montage Cay and Marina.
Matt Lowe’s Cay is located in the Sea of Abaco, in close proximity to Marsh Harbour, with Hope Town to the east and Man O’ War Cay to the north.
Meanwhile Mr Green, who was addressing the Abaco Business Outlook conference, said: “Everybody is facing economic challenges. Business owners are facing challenges, and I think the Government in consequence is facing challenges as well.
"The default, I think, is to look at economic incentives, and we have tried to think about where there can be some win-wins here. We will be engaging hundreds of construction workers, and shortly after that hundreds of employees to run the hotels and the residences and so on.
"So those people need a place to live, and they need to have a quality of life that’s going to entice them to move to Marsh Harbour or wherever. Any assistance that the Government can provide to Bahamians, or jump-starting construction or infrastructure, in some ways I think is going to be to the benefit of everybody. It’s going to need to be done sooner or later anyway, so focus on getting that up and running as soon as possible and I think it’s going to help everybody.
“We are also concurrently going through a number of approvals for this project. We have recently done so at Hurricane Hole and, in a way, I’m saying this is a thank you to the Government for the speed at which they addressed a number of the approvals issues we had needed dealt with.
"Without those we could have been potentially held up for months and months before we can get into the ground, so I think a continued focus to help us get through approvals and work alongside us is needed and I hope will continue."