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|More Investors Target Eleuthera (Bahama Journal)|
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|Posted by:||Jun 6th 2006, 12:38:34 pm|
|Fig Tree News Team||6th June
More Investors Target Eleuthera
By Quincy Parker
The catalogue of tourism products on Eleuthera could soon include The French Leave Resort, which would feature the Caribbean’s first Park Hyatt luxury boutique hotel set amid an upscale oceanfront residential community.
The original French Leave Resort was built at Governor’s Harbour in the 1950s, but burnt to the ground in 1972. The resort was reopened under the aegis of Club Med, but closed again in 1999.
Despite this less-than-stellar history, developer Eddie Lauth and his cohorts acquired the place intending to invest $40 million and revitalize it.
Now, the anticipated investment has reportedly more than doubled, to $100 million plus, and still Mr. Lauth is excited about the Governor’s Harbour prospect.
EIC Resorts, the developers of the planned resort of which Mr. Lauth is the principal, signed a letter of intent with the Hyatt Corporation early in May.
Along with the Park Hyatt hotel, the French Leave Resort will also encompass Savannah Hill, which EIC describes as "an upscale residential community."
French Leave is expected to increase the country’s inventory of marina villages by one; the marina is part of a planned 356-acre development along Eleuthera’s famed Pink Sand Beach, along with restaurants, a full-service spa, up to ten estate lots, villas and cottages.
The marina will take a year to construct, once it gets underway. The length of construction time is due, Mr. Lauth said, to the need to construct a multimillion-dollar breakwater at Governor’s Harbour. A breakwater is a protective structure of stone or concrete that extends from shore into the water to prevent a beach from washing away.
Construction of the resort itself will take between 18 to 24 months.
Veteran hotelier Paul D. Thompson is expected to oversee all the resort’s operations.
EIC is a Pennsylvania-based consortium of developers including Mr. Lauth, managing partner, real estate developer Bob Poole and construction manufacturer Mike Lanigan. Charles Stronach is the Development Director of the French Leave Resort and Marina Village.
The developers think Eleuthera is the ideal location because – in Mr. Lauth’s words – "it’s one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, not just the Bahamas…we also like it because it’s the ‘old Bahamas’…historical buildings all around, that architecture we love.
"We also like it because it’s the ‘old Bahamas’ – it’s not like Miami Beach, it’s not like Paradise Island."
"We’re hoping that the development will start sometime very soon this year," he said. "[We hope to] start the marina here in the next few months."
The group is in the process of finalizing the floor plans for the hotel and the residences, Mr. Lauth said.
He addressed some concerns that have reportedly been circulating through the ranks of foreign investors in the Bahamas, in particular that the Bahamian labour force does not work hard.
"The people that I’ve met, you typically get what you give. If you come and you cop an attitude, you might get one back," he said, "but…part of the problem for Americans, which I learned early on, is don’t forget we’re a guest in this country.
"So I think its very bad form when I see people criticizing someone else in someone else’s country. So I have not myself found that (that Bahamians do not work hard) to be true."
Mr. Lauth acknowledged that there is a difference, but it is a question of patience.
In his view, Americans are typically impatient, "and I think that’s our problem."
He said that he had heard the complaint that the Bahamian work force typically does not work hard, but thought that proper training and etiquette would prevent such problems from arising.
"Not just Bahamians – any employees, I think that (proper training) helps," he added.
Asked about the concessions and the financial ease that the promotional materials stress, Mr. Lauth insisted that this aspect of the Bahamian investment environment is important.
"It’s huge…I’ve read occasionally in the newspapers where people criticize the government for offering concessions to the developers. I can tell you (that) without those concessions, probably half the developments wouldn’t happen," he insisted.
"(Those concessions are) very important."
The investors have reportedly already had conversations with a number of Bahamian realtors regarding the 10 to 20 estate lots planned for the development, and Mr. Lauth said "we will absolutely work with all the Bahamian realtors that are out there – that’s a non-issue for us."
"Our intention is to use exclusively Bahamian contractors, but one of our concerns is (that) there does appear to be a shortage of labour right now so that is an area of concern to us, but we would obviously make every effort to give every job available to Eleutherans, then to Bahamians," he said.
"The one thing we’d like to do is we’d like to be able to employ as many contractors from Eleuthera itself, and those that are from that island who have been waiting for these jobs."
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