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In Miami’s Backyard, Developers Position Bimini as International Destination

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - April 16, 2012

Above: the infinity pool at the Bimini Bay Resort (CJ Photo)

BIMINI – Just 50 miles from Miami, the island of Bimini in the Bahamas has always had a certain magnetism – drawing everyone from Adam Clayton Powell, Jr to Ernest Hemingway (and even Dr Martin Luther King, Jr for one bonefishing jaunt).

But while Bimini has been somewhat overshadowed by larger neighbours like New Providence and Grand Bahama, a group of developers are working to turn the island, Miami’s Bahamian backyard, into an international destination.

Bimini

Miami-based Capo Group and its Bahamian subsidiary RAV Bahamas, which developed the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina, this weekend launched its second phase: Rockwell Island, an ultra-luxury residential development that is part of a plan to lift the island’s profile globally.

“This is a dream that I had several years ago, due to the proximity to South Florida and the East Coast of the United States,” said Gerardo Capo, who, along with son Alejandro, has been spearheading the development.

In the short term, the project has been an economic boon to Bimini, creating nearly 200 new jobs on the island.

It’s Bimini’s proximity to Miami that is the key for the island and the project, and ultimately envisioned as a Hamptons-style retreat for Miami, just a short boat ride or flight away.

“The good thing about Bimini is that nobody knows what it is,” said Jesus Castañon, head of the real estate division at RAV Bahamas. “Right now, I really think it can become “Miami East” — the good thing about Miami is it’s an international port. So when you’re saying East Miami, you’re saying East Brazil, East Venezuela, East Mexico. We’re basically feeding off that international clientele.”

According to Castañon, the project’s first phase drew a number of Cuban-American clients. The new phase has begun attracting buyers from all over South America.

A rendering of a Rockwell Island home

Bimini, which, according to the Bahamian Tourism Authority, does more marina business than any other island in the country (with Bimini bay the country’s largest deepwater marina), is just a 2.5-hour boat ride from Miami.

Additionally, Spanish ferry operator Balearia, which launched a Fort Lauderdale-Freeport ferry this year, could begin operations of a Fort Lauderdale-Bimini ferry in about two months.

Breaking ground at Rockwell Island this weekend

The developers have funded the work to make Bimini accessible for the ferry.

“We think Bimini’s future is on a very strong path to growth — it is the fastest-growing family island destination in the Bahamas today, and the Bimini Bay project in its next phase will drive further growth,” said David Johnson, director-general of the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism. “The proximity is probably one of its greatest assets.”

The next phase, which broke ground on Saturday, is Rockwell Island, a group of beachfront and island bay lots.

The resort also recently opened Sakara, a beach club.

The new Sakara beach club

“We’re trying to create something like the French Riviera, to be the Riviera for the Caribbean,” said Alejandro Capo, principal at the Capo Group. “A place where you can enjoy the beach and the amenities that we have, and still get that luxury experience, but yet still be in an environment that’s not the United States, that’s not Miami, that’s not South Beach, but it’s right next to it.”

What the developers, and the government, hope to maintain, is Bimini’s unique character, the pull that has brought so many for so long.

“It’s important for us that we recognize that there’s only about 2,000 Biminites, people that live on Bimini, so the goal is not to stimulate development in Bimini that will cause us to change the product of Bimini and the experience of Bimini,” Johnson said. “But there’s much room for growth before we get that, and I think we’re on a pace to do that. Certainly, the government is working very closely with the developers here, to ensure that we maintain the character and the experience of Bimini.”

— CJ

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