Never before has the south of the island been more in the news than it has been these past few months. The government has announced at least two major projects for the south which will create employment and boost activity in the sleepy town of Vieux Fort which is also the location of the island’s only International Airport. Despite the location of the airport, and being labelled as “the New Frontier” for decades, the south has not been a mecca for investment and suffers from a high concentration of unemployment, especially amongst the youth.
On Tuesday this week the Government of Saint Lucia continued its announcements of investment in the south with the signing of an agreement to proceed with the Black Bay Master Development.
The heart of the Black Bay Master Development will consist of a luxury branded hotel and villas set on 180 acres on the beautiful southern tip of the island. The site is on the Caribbean southwest coast, within easy reach of the international airport and the Pitons, the world famous heritage site. The Master Development will be developed in a number of phases. The luxury hotel, the anchor of the Master Development, will be developed under the country’s Citizenship-by-Investment programme and will comprise 180 rooms.
Present at the signing was Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet; Minister with responsibility for Investment, Bradley Felix; Minister for Tourism, Dominic Fedee; Minister for Education, Gale Rigobert, and representatives from Invest Saint Lucia and Range Developments, an international developer focusing on luxury hotel projects in the Caribbean.
“This will be our third major luxury development in the Caribbean and we are delighted to be working with the Government of Saint Lucia,” said Mohammed Asaria, Vice Chairman of Range Developments. “Range is aggressively expanding in the Caribbean. The Park Hyatt St Kitts will be completed in the coming months and Kempinski Dominica is advancing with pace. We look forward to partnering with the community and the government and
the local authorities and we look forward to a successful few years ahead and delivering on our development objectives.”
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet thanked the developer for its patience and understanding in allowing the new government time to review the project and renegotiating to come to an agreement to move forward.
“This was a project that had initially been initiated by the former government under the CIP programme,” explained Prime Minister Chastanet. “We have now been working with the developer and I want to say how grateful I am to the developer for working with us to try to create a project we think that is going to be to the benefit of everyone.
“What we have agreed to do is that the applicants that Range brings to the table for the CIP, that those funds are now going to be channelled into invest Saint Lucia, and Invest Saint Lucia is going to be lending the money to the developer and we have worked out what the terms of that lending is going to be,” Prime Minister Chastanet noted. “In addition to that Invest [Saint Lucia] will have the first charge on the land. So it means that if anything goes wrong on the project that the government will be holding the land and the development as collateral in being able to move forward. “As a government what we have been trying to do is to make sure that funds that are developed from the CIP programme, that the public of Saint Lucia sees where they are going. We have indicated that is our preference, is that monies that are going to go through the CIP, that those monies be used either as a loan or in the form of equity.
“It is the intention of our government to, over the next couple of months, introduce a sovereign wealth fund and so the funds we’re obtaining from the CIP programme will go into that. It is important that the people of Saint Lucia understand where these funds are and how they are being used and the return on the investment.”
The Black Bay hotel will be designed and built to the highest standards, in keeping with Range Development’s ethos. Range will imminently be announcing the hotel operator for the development. The project will create about 500 jobs on the island during construction, with a similar amount once the hotel is operational.
The prime minister also announced that farmers in the area have already been engaged and negotiations are ongoing to relocate farmers on favourable terms for all. Present at the signing was the Chairman of the Black Bay Farmers Co-operative Society, Mr. Craig Jn Charles.
There’s more to come for the south as Prime Minister Chastanet also stated that the government will soon be announcing the airport redevelopment project for which financing has already been secured.