A long-touted facelift for downtown Nassau is starting to take shape with the redevelopment of the Nassau Cruise Port and the $250 million Pointe project, which is nearing completion.
The Pointe is an upscale lifestyle, residential and retail development over seven acres of Nassau’s waterfront.
“We are actually creating a community,” said Daniel Liu, senior vice president of China Construction America (CCA).
CCA, a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), purchased the British Colonial Hilton in 2014. The development is entirely funded by CCA, which is the sole investor, developer and contractor for the project.
Taking National Review on a tour of the development recently, Liu said, “The Pointe is not only a hotel. It’s a community created downtown. You have the working space, people can live here; you have the retail space. That’s what downtown future development [should look like].
“This should be a prototype. If you’re talking about future development of downtown Nassau, you have to create a community where people work and live in a place. When the cruise ships leave, everything shuts down. You have to have community. That’s something that I think is the value of the Pointe complex.”
The Margaritaville-branded project consists of 141 ocean view condo units, a 155-room hotel, a 40-slip marina, a parking garage, a water park and other amenities, including a spa, restaurants and movie theaters.
During the groundbreaking ceremony for the development’s second phase in 2017, then Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said The Bahamas government was “very appreciative of the commitment, resolve and cooperation demonstrated by CCA”.
The project has come a long way since then.
“If you understand hospitality, hotel development is quite challenging and quite different,” Liu said. “You need a clear vision, guts, financial background in order to make that happen.
“Our company has the ability. We have been here many years and we understand what it takes to get it done. We have had challenges — Hurricane Dorian and now this
pandemic. It really slowed it down in many different aspects.”
But Liu said the project is now fully on track.
China’s Ambassador to The Bahamas Huang Qinguo also noted recently, “In line with the COVID-19 health and safety measures and through hard work of Chinese and Bahamian employees, The Pointe project is nearing completion. We believe this project will contribute to the social and economic recovery in The Bahamas.”
A walk around the property confirms that the developers have been successful in providing a haven of separate tranquility in the middle of an urban jungle. A promenade connects it to Junkanoo Beach.
The condo units aim to satisfy a need for a residential product in Nassau as well as a modern lifestyle hospitality product.
As an overlay or branding sleeve, Margaritaville’s One Particular Harbor provides the perfect wrapper to unlock this vision. The brand’s ability to attract capital for development has been impressive and it’s driven by a unique demand that modern consumers have.
Tamara Baldanza-Dekker, Margaritaville’s chief marketing officer, said The Bahamas is a perfect location for the brand and “a great next step”.
“It really is a perfect combination of everything that we do,” Baldanza-Dekker said.
“…We think that it has got everything that we are about. It’s such a beautiful location. We love being in The Bahamas at our restaurant, so having another way for people to experience Margaritaville right there…it wouldn’t make sense for us not to be there. We are an island brand. It’s a beautiful space for us to be. It’s perfect for our brand. We love the Bahamian culture. We love The Bahamas, so being there makes perfect sense.”
Liu said The Pointe is an important addition, not only because it will provide a community for visitors, but it will be accessible to Bahamians as well.
“The facility is not only beautiful, Bahamians and guests will have access to the beach, access to the marina, access to the whole facility,” he assured.
“This is a gateway for cruise ships coming in here; this is a gateway for people coming from West Bay Street. It’s going to be an iconic structure and resort.”
The Pointe’s addition to the tourism offerings of The Bahamas comes as the country struggles under the weight of the COVID-19-induced economic fallout, which has led to resort developments across the archipelago shutting down.
While there was some controversy over whether CCA adhered to the heads of agreement obligation to have a majority Bahamian construction workforce, Liu insisted there was never any violation and every action the company took with regards to the development was within the parameters of the law and of the agreement.
The Chinese workforce has started to leave the country as construction winds down.
The benefit to Bahamians in terms of full-time employment will be substantial, Liu said.
“That’s the best part of it,” he said. “The construction will be temporary. What will be done in the next three months, we are going to hire 99.9 percent Bahamians. You’re talking about 400 people direct and then there are indirect people. It will be a major impact on indirect employment.”
Major resort developments like Atlantis and Baha Mar remain closed and have not yet announced any reopening dates.
Liu said The Pointe is confident that it will be well positioned to take advantage of the ramp up in tourism once prospective visitors feel confident enough to visit the destination.
“We are a little different than the established hotels because we can control the hiring process depending on the occupancy level,” he explained.
“So, if the occupancy picks up 30, 40 percent, we will hire 30, 40 percent of people, so we have a little advantage with that, so we’re committed to opening this before Christmas.”
The government recently announced new protocols to take effect for travelers. They will be required to have a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test no more than seven days prior to their travel to The Bahamas. They must also take a rapid antigen test upon arrival and then again four days after arrival in The Bahamas.
“We welcome this new announcement by the Ministry of Tourism to simplify the procedure, especially, [doing away] with the quarantine [requirement],” Liu said.
“You can see all the major hotels don’t want to commit to an opening date. There is so much cost that comes along with it, so we will work on this new procedure and we are going to open One Particular Harbor (the condo units) before Christmas.”
The Pointe appears poised to be one of the crucial components in facilitating the economic recovery that our islands crave.
In order to drive our recovery, we need to focus on our strengths. Our strengths are in the hospitality industry and being able to provide unforgettable experiences to our traveling neighbors from the United States — which is the source of the vast majority of our visitors — and elsewhere.
In addition to serving as a catalyst to help drive our recovery, The Pointe is a core element of the revitalization of Nassau.
The topic of downtown revitalization has been a topic of discussion over decades. While most agree that rejuvenation of the capital city is desperately needed, Bahamians have different views on what this should look like.
Many see The Pointe development as an unwelcome addition to Nassau as it has changed the skyline, and created a kind of modernization that redefines the city, but not in ways they view as particularly beneficial to our brand.
Many Bahamians understandably have a nostalgic attachment to the old Nassau charm. From limited historical sources available, we believe that the only other structures that have been constructed previously on the vacant area where The Pointe is constructed were a couple of tennis courts, a nightclub, a surface parking lot and a power station, hardly items that celebrate Bahamian culture or architecture.
The historical components that were preserved on The Pointe site were the “Well of Blackbeard”, along with the “Gateway to Nassau”, both structures that have been present on the site for probably over two centuries.
The Well of Blackbeard is rumored to have been used by the pirate of the same name, while the gateway was an arch showing the exact point where the City of Nassau’s boundary line was located in previous centuries.
At eight stories, The Pointe is a towering structure by Nassau’s standards, a fact that has many locals uneasy.
In order to attain critical mass, developments need to be of a certain size to make the returns on capital work. A smaller development would not have been able to capture the developer’s vision and would probably have failed at attracting capital due to limited returns, an industry insider noted in a recent chat with National Review.
Without a doubt, there needs to be a fine line between preserving cultural heritage and allowing capital to drive a new vision.
This emphasizes the need for a clear, well-thought-out strategy from the government that describes architectural zoning and other developer parameters in the greater Nassau area going forward.
Finding the balance between progress and preservation is not a mutually exclusive decision. It is possible for both components to be accommodated. However, a very clear government position of leadership is required.
As opposed to just examining each project on a case-by-case basis, there needs to be a coherent, transparent strategy to carefully manage the marriage of continuous development and the maintenance of traditional architecture and other cultural components of the city.
The added benefit of having this large amenity on one corner of Bay Street is that it will attract additional foot traffic to surrounding businesses.
The Pointe should be a welcomed complement to the new Nassau Cruise Port. In addition to making the drab and decaying downtown area more attractive and rejuvenated, it will provide much-needed additional amenities for the individuals visiting our shores.
That adds value to a destination that could use an upgrade.