• $80m marina aims to transform ‘blighted’ area
• Trash dumps, stolen boats hurting Yamacraw
• But ex-BREA president voices storm concern
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
An $80m marina investment for southern New Providence is pledging to transform “a hazardous location” blighted by trash dumps and stolen boats via a project that will create 220 permanent jobs at full build-out.
Legendary Marina Resort at Blue Water Cay, which is targeting a 20-acre site at the southern end of Fox Hill Road past Checkers Cafe and the Freedom Farm Baseball Park, is forecasting that it will attract 16,500 extra annual visitors to The Bahamas once the phased nine-and-a-half construction process is completed.
More details on the development, which is presently seeking both its planning and environmental approvals, are disclosed in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) produced by Bahamian consultancy, Bron Ltd, which states that the Florida-headquartered developer plans to overhaul an area purportedly being used for the dumping of waste including dog faeces.
The April 2022 economic impact assessment for Legendary Marina Resort, prepared by Tourism Economics (Oxford Economics), calculates the project will have a total $789m economic impact and boost annual Bahamian gross domestic product (GDP) by $483m over a 25-year period. This translates to an average total annual impact of $31.56m, and GDP effect of $19.32m, over that period.
The assessment also predicted that the marina, and associated amenities including hotel, condominiums, mixed-use retail/office facility, boat storage, fuel and Customs/Immigration post, will boost Bahamian worker income by a cumulative $154m over that same 25-year period and create “an average of 375 additional full-time equivalent jobs” both directly and indirectly. When the 25-year average is calculated, the wage impact is a more modest $6.16m per year.
“Government revenues from the additional economic activity would total $158m (in 2022 figures) and would outweigh proposed concessions by a factor of 2.4,” Tourism Economics calculated. The study showed that, over Legendary Marina’s first 25 years, the developer estimates that it will receive tax breaks totalling some $66.3m, consisting of $38.2m in waived real property tax payments and $28.1m in foregone VAT and import duties on construction materials.
It then argues, though, that this will be more than offset by increased revenues elsewhere that the Government will not otherwise gain, including $47.8m worth of VAT and some $74m in Stamp duties.
However, Patrick Strachan, a two-time former Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) president, has voiced his misgivings over the Legendary Marina Resort at Blue Water Cay project. Disclosing that he was familiar with the location and surrounding area, having once been hired as a realtor to sell lots in the subdivision originally planned for that site, he argued that it remains too exposed to storm surge and flooding should a major hurricane strike New Providence.
“I have several concerns about this proposed development,” he told Tribune Business. “I’m familiar with that area; that subdivision has been around for at least 20-plus years. Initially it couldn’t get off the ground. Five to six persons may have bought lots in there, but the concern was that it was so narrow and so low that if people were build out there storm surge would overwhelm that entire tract of land.
“That was one of the main concerns, and why the subdivision could never get off the ground. What have the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) given approval in principle on? I have my concerns. I am going to be watching this very carefully.”
The original plan for the Bluewater Cay subdivision, labelled “a boater’s paradise”, which has been seen by this newspaper shows the same peninsula-type tract of land upon which Legendary Marina will construct its project as being divided into 40 lots with prices as high as $360,000. The first developer was Alan Winner of Grosham Properties.
Tribune Business previously revealed that Mr Winner’s estate, together with Bahamian businessmen Tony Myers and Peter Andrews, and Star Insurance, have now collectively sold the property to Legendary Marina for a combined $4.15m. The new developer, though, seemingly shares none of Mr Strachan’s concerns as the centrepiece of its ambitions is a 600-vessel boat storage facility capable of withstanding Category Five hurricanes.
“Total investment will amount to $80m spread out over nine years. The investment includes construction of rental villas and the hotel, boat storage facility, marina, marine service centre and store, fine dining options, and on-site employee living facilities. Only local expenditures are included in the modelling for economic impact purposes,” Tourism Economics said.
This was broken down into a $50m spend on the marina, and $22m on the hospitality units, with the balance targeted at amenities, utilities, staff areas and common areas. “New visitor volume will stabilise at 16,500 annual visitors,” Tourism Economics added. “Partial marina operations will begin in Year two and partial hotel operations in Year seven, with the villa component operational in Year nine.
“Project managers expect initial occupancy of the rental units and the hotel to be 55 percent, and ramp up to 70 percent at stabilisation after four years of operations for both hospitality components. The new capacity and projected occupancy would correspond to a stabilised volume of 16,500 annual visitors to The Bahamas.”
Thus the full economic impact of Legendary Marina’s project will take some years to materialise. “Providing service and parts availability will keep boat owners from taking their boats to Florida for service. This will bring an existing revenue stream to the Bahamas that is currently going elsewhere,” the EIA added.
“The in-direct benefits of the Project would be in the order of three to four times’ the direct benefits, based on experience with similar projects.” The developers are also promising “to make every effort to achieve an employment ratio of 80 percent Bahamian to 20 percent non-Bahamian”.
Touting the project’s advantages for the area’s environment, the EIA added: “The existing site has been abandoned for several years and has become a hazardous location to the neighborhood. There are trash dumps on site and stolen boats have been found in Yamacraw Lake. The project will enhance the surrounding environment by bringing a security presence to the area and cleaning up a blighted site.
“The developer is also proposing to dredge the very shallow entrance to Yamacraw Lake, which will allow residents to access the lake with their vessels as well as enhance the water circulation and exchange flow with the sea, thus enhancing the water quality of the lake........ The developer intends to construct unimpeded public access to a public beach location at the south-west corner of the project.
“The project site (northern peninsula) has previously been cleared, and the canals have previously been dredged for boats within the area. Other than the physical changes to this environment there is human influence seen in the garbage and fishing equipment found within the canals,” the EIA continued. During the marine surveys there were a number of debris seen, suggesting that this site might be used for dumping in certain areas, in particular, where a whole car was found.
“During the marine survey, residents expressed concerns pertaining to the current land use of the area by neighbours who were discarding various forms of waste within the marine area inclusive of dog faeces. Additionally, there were a number of fishing cages found and also fishing line and ropes. This shows that people use this site as a fishing ground which would affect the fish population of the area.”