Op-Ed

Things looking up for Grand Bahama

Let me get this out of the way: Grand Bahama is my second home.

Of all the beautiful islands in this wonderful archipelago, I have to admit that Grand Bahama has a special place in my heart.

Those who know me personally will likely say, “Of course it is; his wife is from Freeport, so that’s a no-brainer.”

While that is true, it’s also true that Abaco and Eleuthera, where my grandparents hail from, also hold unique places in my heart.

But the truth is that growing up, Grand Bahama, or Freeport, was the “other Bahamas” where we Nassauvians imagined a land of opportunities and talent that were different from (but the same as) all the greatness that being Bahamian represented.


Finally

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Aviation and Investments Chester Cooper announce that Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd. had entered into a $100 million purchase agreement with Electra America Hospitality Group for the Grand Lucayan resort property.

Yes, the same Grand Lucayan the Minnis administration bought from Hutchison Whampoa in August 2018 for $65 million.

In March 2020, the FNM government signed a heads of agreement with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) and the ITM Group, which included a commitment to invest $300 million in the property’s redevelopment and construct a new cruise port.

Sadly, the global pandemic brought the world to a grinding, screeching halt, including this potentially lucrative deal for Grand Bahama.

Fast forward to December 2021, the newly elected prime minister, Philip “Brave” Davis, and the ‘“new day” administration canceled the deal, citing that it was bad or flawed on multiple levels.


Stop, review and cancel works for once

I have to tip my hat to Cooper.

He wasn’t just pontificating for political mileage; he was intent from the break to sell the Grand Lucayan property.

I must admit, I had no confidence of anything happening in Freeport post-PM Davis’ declaration after his soiree on the world stage in Dubai this past February.

“The Bahamas today is really growing and continues to grow,” Davis said.

But for Grand Bahama, there is always this sort of question mark. And why is there that question mark if they are willing to invest in The Bahamas? When we ask them if they’d like to come to Grand Bahama, there is always some reluctance on their part.”

Thankfully, Cooper remained focused and got it done quickly and efficiently.

The Electra America Hospitality Group is a very successful real estate investment firm.

Its impressive portfolio includes luxurious resort properties in Manhattan, South Beach, Miami, and West Palm Beach.


Let’s get it started already

The deal with Electra America calls for a 60-day due diligence period with a closing date no later than 120 days.

Cooper said renovations and construction are expected to start once the sale is completed, providing 2,000 construction jobs (with 80 percent going to Bahamians) and 1,000 permanent jobs.


Much needed makeover

The new resort property will feature quite an impressive list of upgrades and amenities and, once completed, will include a fully refurbished golf course; a renovated casino managed by a world-class casino operator (I understand it’s the Hard Rock brand); a luxury lifestyle hotel with approximately 200 rooms and two dozen villas; a convention hotel with more than 500 rooms and event spaces catering to groups and conventions exclusively; an all-suite resort with more than 200 condo hotel-style suites; 11 world-class restaurants and 10 bars; a spa, fitness facility, amenities for children, pools, and water features.

Quite impressive, I must say, but wait, there’s more.

Renewable energy?


You had me at solar

Everyone knows I have been an advocate for the environment from “dat time,” involved in the fight against climate change, coastal erosion, and oil drilling.

I fully support the dire need to move to renewable energy like yesterday!

So I find it quite refreshing to see a major real estate developer that gets it.

Solar energy will be a significant part of the property’s sustainable management strategy.

Additionally, the property will develop gardens to provide fresh produce for guests’ consumption.

Electra America has also committed to best-in-class recycling practices due to its commitment to self-sustainability.


No need to politicize

Finger-pointing and mudslinging over which political party’s idea it was or the similarities in the details of the agreement are here nor there.

For far too long, we have politicized everything as Bahamians, and look where it’s gotten us. It doesn’t matter.

The FNM version called for $50 million down and $300 million to be invested in the property, for a total $350 million investment.

The PLP version calls for $100 million down and $300 million to be invested into the property, for a total $400 million investment.

The bottom line is that Grand Bahama has needed this type of investment and economic injection for decades.

I couldn’t care less who gets it done; just get it done!


Cant we all get along?

To all my politicos from the FNM and PLP who stay burning up the chat group circuit, look at it like this; the FNM conceived the baby, and the PLP delivered it. They both had a hand; both played an integral part.


One down, two to go

A rebuilt, world-class airport on Grand Bahama is projected to be completed in line with the opening of the Grand Lucayan resort in early 2025, according to Cooper.

It all looks perfect on paper and will look even better when completed.

Can Chester go two for two?

• Inigo “Naughty” Zenicaze- laya is the host of radio show “Talking Heads” on Guardian Radio.

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