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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Not Last Summer - We Really, Really Meant This Summer

Almost a year after their big announcement that work would have been starting late last summer on the redevelopment of the Sam Lord?s Castle resort, at a press conference yesterday the Chairman of the insurance company which owns the property disclosed that construction will be commencing in August this year. Town Planning approval for the construction of 200 condos on the 53-acre site was already in hand, and it was expected that the same approval for the new 250-room 5-star hotel would be in place by the end of this month , April 2008, with completion now targeted for 2011. The new price tag is $140 M - down from the $200M bandied about last year. Hmmm, and we thought construction costs were going up.

Of course, this years plans could also be a scale back on last year?s plans (neither of which this blogger has seen). Another peculiarity coming from the Chairman (who is also the newly appointed Chairman of state-owned broadcaster - CBC) was that there will be three different projects going on at Sam Lord?s at the same time: the construction of the condos, the construction of the hotel, and the refurbishment of the castle, all being carried out by three different ?groups? whatever that means. It certainly sounds like the recipe for cost overruns and further delays to this unwashed onlooker.

Also, no mention was made of the attached golf course at Bath, St. John. Last year the same Trinidad-owned insurance company, which by some estimates already owns half the parish of St. John, was seeking to obtain a further 300 acres of land in the same parish from the previous Government on which they were going to build a golf course to support both their Sam Lord?s, St. Philip and Villa Nova, St. John resorts. The new Prime Minister may have dismissed this latter idea last night in his nationwide telecast when he reaffirmed his government?s support for the National Park stretching from Archers Bay in St. Lucy to Skeete?s Bay in St. Philip.
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Trying To Keep Up With The Ever Changing Site Plan

It is difficult enough buying into a development you have not seen especially when there is nothing on the ground, but when they keep dramatically changing the site plan then you know you are in big trouble.

The Bare Bones Plan

The Pack'em In Plan

The Pool Deck Plan

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Merricks "scheduled to start soon?"

In an article yesterday in the Nation newspaper dealing with the issue of development along the east and southeast coasts and its impact on beach access and on "windows to the sea," it was disclosed that the Merricks project is "scheduled to start soon." Before any investors start getting their hopes up please Keep in mind that the same newspaper on February 1, 2007 also reported that construction was "anticipated to start soon." You would think that with a project as important as Merricks after more than a year someone at The Nation would have pursued some serious investigative journalism on this issue.

Click here to read article.

Meanwhile, it looks like if Merricks ever gets built it will be run by the Spanish hotel chain - "Oasis" - according to a news release saying that contracts have already been signed for the management of resorts in St. Vincent and the Dominican Republic under construction by the same company behind Merricks.

Click here to read news release.
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Friday, April 11, 2008

What's Going On With The Culpepper Club?

After several big news splashes over the last few years we are hearing and seeing nothing about what's going on with the Culpepper Club resort development. Could it be dead or was it a scam?

Merricks Blog: What's Going On With Merricks?
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What's Going On With Merricks?

It is almost a given that there will be costs and development overruns in any project of any size in Barbados, just look at how difficult a time Almond Resorts are currently having trying to open Almond Casuarina or the government in getting the Pierhead Redevelopment off the ground. The Merricks project at Palmetto Bay in St. Philip, however, is becoming a cause of concern particularly for those who have invested their hard earned money in it. In January and February last year the local media was reporting that nearly all of the apartments, etc., in this development were sold and that construction would be starting within days or weeks with a completion date targeting the 2009-2010 timeframe. To date nothing has started on the site except for the cutting of a road which was never paved and is now overgrown with weeds. Meanwhile, the Internet is full British real estate websites all aggressively trying to market the same apartments in the development which the public was told were already sold last year.

It begs the question - what is going on with Merricks? This is the question being asked on Internet chatrooms. It is the same question that was asked about the Sapphire Cove development in St. Lucia before armies of investors were banding themselves together to try to recover their money. Not that this sort of thing has not happened in Barbados before, but the size and scale of Merricks can give a small country like Barbados a bad name in a hurry. Do we really want potential investors worldwide associating the island with Ponzi schemes and other dubious practices? The latest sales push is to pressure people to invest now before they announce who the 5-star hotel/resort operator is going to be when prices will skyrocket another 20-30%. Which 5-star luxury hotel brand is lining up to ruin its reputation by associating its flag with such gimmickry?
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Of Cruise Ports And Marinas

Last month during the Estimates Debate the new Prime Minister announced that it was the intention of the new government to build a new cruise port in the north of the island mainly because of the security concerns of having half a dozen large cruise liners in the Bridgetown Port at the same time. That debate was joined this week with the island’s largest construction magnate, Sir Charles Williams, suggesting that the new port should be located on the site of the cement plant at Checker Hall in St. Lucy. He seems also to be suggesting that the Trinidad-owned cement plant be permanently closed or moved to the Bridgetown Port site near the flour mill.

Keep in mind that he is making this latter statement only days after the announcement of a hike in the price of cement by as much as BDS$1 per bag, and that Sir Charles owns a huge estate in St. Lucia where construction materials are being mined, which he is already using to resurface roads in St. Lucia and Barbados. He also claims that cement can be imported more cheaply from within the region, by as much as 40% less, than when it is produced in Barbados.

However, getting back to the new state of the art cruise port itself, the polo-playing septuagenarian thinks it will revitalize Speightstown and give tourism on the island a shot in the arm. Sir Charles also claims that even excluding his own Port St. Charles (no pun intended) there is room for three more marinas in the northwest of the inland including the second one he wants to build in St. Peter at Retreat for which he is still awaiting planning permission after several years.

During the recent general elections the whole issue of another marina in St. Peter at Retreat/Six Mens became something of a political football since it included the hot-potato issue of relocating people. The position of the previous government was that some people had to be moved from Six Mens not to make way for Sir Charles’ new marina but for a fishing facility and a lagoon for sheltering boats during hurricane season; and that since a new marina was on the cards next door at Retreat, then environmental and other impact studies were combined.

Of course, the previous government was also accusing the then opposition of moving a planned jetty for Six Mens to St. John for party political purposes the last time they were in power in Barbados. Keep in mind also that during the last regime a jetty was built and the fish market rebuilt in Speightstown at a time when there is very little or no fishing being done in Speightstown. Consequently, there was some talk of the jetty being able to berth cruise liners. So, it will be very interesting in the coming months and years to watch what gets done (if anything) as the major players both in government and the private sector go through the required motions of the song and dance that it takes to get things done in Barbados.

Meanwhile, this just in.
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