CJ Invest, News, Special Reports

The Great Grand Bahama Comeback

By: Jesse Scott

Approaching five years post-Hurricane Dorian, it appears Grand Bahama is having a major moment in the sun.

The northernmost Bahamian island was ground zero for the 2019 storm, which caused an estimated $7 billion in damage Bahamas-wide. Today, according to Invest Grand Bahama, there are now more than 31 major projects in the pipeline island-wide amounting to $1.8 billion-plus in total investments.

“Post-Dorian and out of the pandemic, we’ve seen a nice, steady increase of real estate transactions on the island,” Carmel Churchill, co-owner of DonCar Hospitality Management Services, tells Caribbean Journal. “These transactions have primarily been in condo investments and condo redevelopment projects, but we are broadly very optimistic in terms of what we are seeing across the board.”

six senses
The new Six Senses Grand Bahama project.

Churchill founded DonCar Hospitality Management Services with her husband, Don, in 1996. The company specializes in assisting foreign investors to maximize their investments on the island among other strategies. From 2014 through 2018, Carmel Churchill also served as a marketing consultant for the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board.

Grand Bahama itself is approximately 530 square miles in size with its main city, Freeport Lucaya, amassing 230 square miles. A bonus of investing in the island, Churchill says, is that its population is currently around 50,000 and Freeport Lucaya alone has the existing infrastructure to accommodate a population of 250,000.

“Anyone looking to invest, you pretty much can identify property and plug into the infrastructure that already exists,” she says. “One thing I know that the governments are working on is making investments happen at a much more rapid pace. The ease of doing business has historically been a challenge, but a lot of people are working toward very positive change.”

The “governments” involved in any Grand Bahama transaction that Churchill alludes to are the Bahamas government as well as the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Churchill says in recent years they have collectively passed a number of measures to help businesses and residents in reducing the cost of recovery. Among the initiatives, the Bahamian government issued a Special Economic Recovery Zone Order and the Grand Bahama Port Authority was able to provide development waivers and startup programs.

six senses grand bahama
A villa mock-up at the Six Senses project.

Within the 31 major active projects, four are tourism centric. The largest is the Carnival Grand Port located at Sharp Rock with an estimated investment value of $500 million. Upon completion, the port – which will ultimately be branded as Celebration Key – will be able to accommodate two ships with a capacity of 6,000 guests each.

Another major project is a new international airport. The government of the Bahamas purchased Grand Bahama International Airport in April 2021 and plans to build a new $200 million airport by 2025.

Currently, as the airport stands, it has two terminals, one of which is a 20,000 square-foot international space with a passenger capacity of 500.

The crown jewel of Grand Bahama’s comeback, though, is the new Six Senses Grand Bahama,  the product of a partnership between Weller Development Partners and Pegasus Capital Advisors.

It’s a more than $250 million branded-residential resort project will instanly become the island’s premier luxury resort.

Sales just launched, with plans for the resort to open its first phase in 2026.

The new project “will drive tremendous job creation and economic growth on the island, while attracting individuals who appreciate luxury combined with authentic experiences steeped in wellness and local culture, a signature of the Six Senses brand,” said John Christie, president and managing broker of Bahamian real estate firm HG Christie, which is leading sales and marketing of the project.

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