Businessman and developer Sebas Bastian has invested just over $4 million into what he believes would be the reinvigoration of commerce on Hurricane Dorian-battered Abaco.
The 24,000-square-foot Resilience Square Commerce Center in Marsh Harbour has been officially opened, consisting of 15 retail spaces, 12 of which have already been leased.
Bastian, who serves as chairman of Brickell Management Group, said the project was unlike any other investment his company has undertaken, in that the ultimate aim was to spur economic activity rather than see an immediate return.
“When we decided to build Resilience Square, we started construction three months after the storm and you can imagine that was a time when a tremendous amount of uncertainties would have existed on where the future of Abaco was headed. But I initially thought that we were not making a traditional real estate investment like how we do, we knew that in order to rebuild and rebound Abaco, we would need to cement in its future anchored services,” he said.
“With almost 90 percent of the commerce and storefronts decimated, we knew that we needed to make an investment that would kickstart commerce in Abaco again and allow businesses that existed before the storm to be able to recalibrate and reopen and then businesses that want to open for the first time, they would have the infrastructure to do so. So, it was really our contribution to the revitalization of Abaco, which was the reason why we decided to construct the plaza in the first place.”
Toward that end, Bastian said the businesses leasing spaces in the plaza would be given the first six months rent free, to allow them time to build out, set up their spaces and alleviate the pressure of restarting.
At the official opening and blessing ceremony in Marsh Harbour yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the Resilience Square Commerce Center stands as a symbol of the progress the government is making together with private citizens and investors to rebuild Abaco.
“The government has a pivotal role in national development and national emergencies. The private sector also has an essential role in national development and without private sector involvement in the recovery and rebuilding efforts, we cannot rebuild our communities in ways that enhance their resilience and ensure sustainability,” he said.
“This is why I want to commend the Brickell Management Group, its team of contractors and construction workers and the group’s chairman.”
Hurricane Dorian left a trail of destruction on Abaco when it made landfall in September 2019. More than 30,000 homes and businesses are estimated to have been leveled by what is one of the strongest storms in Bahamian history.
In recent weeks, residents and persons with interests on Abaco have lamented the slow rebuilding efforts which have been blamed on a lack of housing for construction crew on the island.
Bastian said with Resilience Square behind him, his company may turn its focus toward building residential properties.
“If the opportunity presents itself. We were so busy. As you can imagine that was a fairly difficult build, we were doing so at a time when the port wasn’t fully open, equipment wasn’t there and supplies weren’t readily available. It was a very difficult build for us and it took a lot of time and effort to do it,” he said, pointing out that rental units would be the likely route.
“So we haven’t focused on the residential side only because we had heard that there were some service lots or some rebuilding from others and from the government that was supposed to start and so we didn’t look into that, but it’s definitely something we will consider. I’m really proud of how far they’ve come in such a short time, but there’s still a long way to go and I think there really needs to be a tremendous amount of reinvestment or investment for the first time from the private sector into that economy.”