During a press briefing on January 30, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet provided a progress update on the Fairmont Saint Lucia Hotel (Sab Wisha project). The hotel is to be built on approximately 15 acres of beachfront property in Choiseul, housing 120 rooms and 40 villas, and is expected to employ hundreds.
According to the prime minister, equipment has started to arrive for the project in accordance with the fast-approaching, projected commencement.
The property, which is supposed to open in late 2019, was the site of a sod-turning ceremony on June 29, 2017 at which luxury hotel operator Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and GP Group JSC were in attendance. Along with the announcement of what was then referred to as “Project Fairmont Saint Lucia”, MP and Minister with responsibility for Investment Hon. Bradley Felix, during the event, foreshadowed the infrastructural and social development that was to come as a result. He said, “Today marks an important day in the history for the people of Choiseul as we will witness the beginning of the long-awaited infrastructural transformation that Choiseul needs . . . and generate a greater level of economic activity.”
Increased employment within the community, added opportunities for the establishment of small businesses around new facilities, and the “building and enhancement of green areas surrounding the infrastructure, which will help preserve the natural assets of Choiseul” were also among the minister’s stated project benefits.
Four months after these initial announcements, however, members of the Choiseul Community came before Minister Felix and Pinkley Francis — Chairman of the Board of Directors of Invest Saint Lucia — during a town hall meeting to share their grievances surrounding the project, including concerns which arose after renderings of the hotel showed that a well-travelled road would be diverted, increasing commuting time to certain areas by up to fifteen minutes. Consequently, according to reports following a subsequent town hall meeting, developers had answered these cries, declaring that an alternative roadway leading to the location of the new resort would be constructed, while the existing road network would undergo drainage reconstruction.
During last week’s press briefing, in relation to the community’s concerns, Prime Minister Chastanet highlighted, “The biggest issue was the road and I think that was addressed so people clearly understood what the facts were and that it was not intended to stop anybody from coming on the property. The public access to the beach will remain the same. But, in order to facilitate the development, in order to be able to create jobs, in order to meet the target we have of a minimum of 5% growth, these are some of the decisions that we are going to have to make.”
Amongst other developments addressed at January 30’s press briefing was the Ritz Carlton in Black Bay, Vieux Fort about which the prime minister stated, “It’s going to require us to bring a document to parliament. If you remember, in opposition, one of the complaints that I had about the CIP programme was that once the CIP agency had approved the applicants and had received the monies, it was intended that the monies be transferred to the National Economic Fund. Unfortunately that National Economic Fund does not have any regulations in it . . . we’re trying to make sure that we follow the proper processes and so it’s our intention at the next parliamentary sitting to bring regulations for that entity into play, which would then allow us to transfer the funds over to the National Economic Fund. [This] would then permit us to transfer funds to Invest Saint Lucia in order to facilitate the loan agreement that we have with the Ritz Carlton.”
Discussions with the Canelles Project developers were also mentioned when the prime minister stated, “I was also in discussions with our developers in Canelles and they have assured me that everything is on pace with that project. They are hoping to be able to make a formal announcement as to the date they intend to break ground on that particular project.”