Construction of the Ritz Carlton Molasses Reef Resort project in West Caicos which was a casualty of the global financial meltdown could be up and running again in a matter of weeks, should an agreement between the liquidators of Lehman Brothers and a group of interested parties come to an agreement.
The project was about 80 percent complete at the time of the work stoppage.
Now, at a time when the Turks and Caicos Islands is hungry and thirsty for inward development, the recommencement of the West Caicos project would be a significant boost for the country which relies heavily on tourism and construction for its revenue. The SUN was told that a team of European investors, which has expressed keen interest in the project, has been jetting in and out of the Turks and Caicos on an above average basis seeking to tie up loose ends in order to get the development going once again.
In recent months there has been a flurry of activities by interests in the development and almost every day – sometimes twice a day – groups of persons have been seen boating towards and from the island, to inspect the property.
Logwood Development is the owner of the project, which was originally financed by the now defunct Lehman Brothers through renowned high-end international investment and development firm – GENCOM.
A source close to the project told The SUN that a meeting, which could determine whether or not the project commences soon, was scheduled for the coming days between the new financial backers and Logwood, describing the interactions as “positive talks”.
According to the source, a due diligence study may have been the solitary snag to the commencement of the project, since the prospective investors would want to ensure that everything was above board.
“There is a lot of talks taking place between the parties (prospective investors and Logwood), and people going back and fourth (on West Caicos) every day, but I can’t definitively say ‘yes, the project is about to start’. I think what is probably holding back the project are negotiations and due diligence study.
“They (financial backers) want to see the books; they want to go and check the buildings for themselves, to determine whether or not the project is feasible to move forward. People may see the buzz of activities every day and may believe that the project has restarted. It has not, but you know, the prospective new sponsors would need to ensure that everything is put in place before signing off to undertake the project,” the source said.
There have speculations that the Ritz Carlton may be hesitant to stamp its seal of approval on the project in the wake its ups and downs, but the source said so far, the exclusive resort brand appears unmoved by such occurrence and has decided to remain on board.
Many local hoteliers do not see the Ritz Carlton development as a competition to their business, but rather, an expensive piece of jewel in the crown of the Turks and Caicos Islands tourism market, which they said should increase the value of the local tourism product. And as a result, they expressed a desire for the project to be completed.
Accessible only by air and sea, the Molasses Reef Ritz Carlton Reserve is located six miles from Providenciales.
The website which is still up, has been marketing the development as location for someone: “Seeking a peerless Caribbean escape that combines barefoot luxury with a genuine sense of place. Blending traditional Caribbean influences with verdant garden courtyards and secluded plunge pools.”
Among the offerings, according to the website, will be:
• A 125 sea-swept suites and 75 private, Ritz-Carlton branded Island Villas;
• Three restaurants created by renowned Chef Gray Kunz;
• A full-service spa, offering indigenous treatments;
• Ocean-front guest suites with private terraces, overlooking more than a half mile of pristine Caribbean beach;
• A natural wildlife sanctuary, two national parks; and
• An array of archaeological and cultural sites
The luxury development was not without controversy, as the law-enforcement authorities had to be called to West Caicos on at least two occasions to maintain the peace following disagreements between contractors, regular workers and management of the project.
The first occasion involved local contractors and local skilled men, who said they were being sidelined in favour of imported Chinese workers, who took the job for far less salary that what the locals would bargain for.
The second disturbance involved the Chinese workers, who were alleged to have held their bosses captive on the island for approximately two days, for non-payment of salaries, and only released them after the intervention of the authorities.
But the situation was downplayed by at least one side of the disagreeing parties, saying that there was no hostage situation on the job site.