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Revamping Nassau

Revamping Nassau

Multimillion-dollar Pointe development looks to revitalize the capital's downtown

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
February 16, 2019
February 16, 2019
Catherine Morris

There has been a buzz on Bay Street recently as downtown Nassau undergoes an extensive facelift. Driven by local and international investors, as well as government stakeholders, the scale of development is ambitious, running from Junkanoo Beach at the western end of town to Paradise Island to the east. The biggest, and newest, kid on the block is The Pointe, a $250 million, six-acre development to the west of the British Colonial Hilton, developed, funded and managed by Neworld One Bay Street Ltd, a subsidiary of China Construction America (CCA).

Expected to open in spring 2020, The Pointe will include a 150-room Margaritaville Beach Resort, luxury oceanfront residences, a marina, water park, spa, entertainment centre, retail shops and dining options. CCA has also committed to upgrading nearby Lighthouse Beach, creating a more attractive pathway from Arawak Cay into the downtown area to maximize the natural beauty of the harbour and beachside area.

By the time it is completed, The Pointe will have invested more than $100 million in the Bahamian economy and created 500 direct jobs, according to CCA. And its impact is expected to be significant, luring more tourists into the downtown area and giving cruise ship passengers an opportunity to spend more time and money onshore.

Bringing downtown to life
When CCA acquired The Pointe property in December 2014, it marked a new direction for the company’s plans in The Bahamas. Having already established a presence in the large resort sector thanks to Baha Mar, CCA was looking to create something right in the heart of Nassau and mine the overlooked potential of the downtown core.

“We understand the value of downtown projects,” says Daniel Liu, CCA senior vice-president and president of The Pointe. “The downtown of cities in the Caribbean region have long been neglected or ignored, but they possess tremendous value. There is a niche market there that we can tap into and work with local government to make it into a new community.”

The natural attributes of the six-acre oceanfront property, which includes the British Colonial Hilton, were obvious. Liu says: “There is a lot of natural beauty and history here. It is close to Nassau and the cruise ship terminal, and the Hilton itself has a lot of history. It is the entrance to downtown and it is close to the Charles Towne area. You have this prime piece of land on the ocean. It is a very attractive site.”

Construction began in August 2015 with the creation of a 900-space parking garage, offices and retail outlets. The entertainment centre, which includes a cinema, bowling alley, bar and virtual reality simulation, was officially unveiled in October last year and, like most of the property, is designed to cater to residents and tourists.

The move to include locals is a conscious effort on the part of The Pointe to maximize its impact, according to Liu who says: “It is not only for tourists, but also Bahamians and expats. This is a private project, but it is downtown and we have designed it so that everyone can come and enjoy themselves.”

By luring more locals downtown, The Pointe hopes to breathe new life into Nassau and generate a boost in business, tourism and real estate. “Downtown, especially in the evening, is dead,” says Liu. “There are no activities, no life. Our slogan for The Pointe [is] The Bahamas Comes to Life and that is a good sign of what we are trying to do. It will bring the area to a whole new level.”

Locals have been showing interest in the project’s real estate component already, says Liu who was “overwhelmed and surprised” by the response when they began advertising in fall last year. According to Gerhard Beukes, vice- president of CCA’s South America affiliate, The Pointe is tapping into pent-up demand with its luxury condo offering. “The life of a city comes from people living in it and no one has been living in Nassau,” he says. “A lot of people were looking at a living concept, but no one ever did it. This project is being very favourably viewed by locals because everybody knows Nassau needs a living component.”

Private residences at the One Particular Harbour condominium start at $900,000, while those in the rental programme run from $350,000. The luxury apartments range from one, two and three bedrooms and all come with glass balconies and high-end furnishings. “Our price is in the right range and we have had a good response,” says Liu. “There is a lot of local money here and limited investment channels.”

Target markets
The condominium and the new hotel on the site will be part of the Margaritaville brand after the global hospitality group joined The Pointe team in January 2018. It was a good fit from the outset, according to Beukes who adds: “We brainstormed different ideas, but [Margaritaville] just felt right. There is no other look and feel to a resort that would fit what we want to do here. It’s a very exciting brand.”

Two hotels on the site means two different markets. The British Colonial Hilton will focus on attracting business groups and events, while the Margaritaville Beach Resort at The Pointe will provide lifestyle luxury in a boutique setting. “The big hotel brands have been very successful in turning out a standardized commodity in terms of their hotel rooms but when you come to the beach in Nassau, you don’t necessarily want a conventional room. You want that luxury experience. Margaritaville offers a premium resort product,” says Beukes. “It is a tremendous benefit to have both these properties on campus. You can have a lot of cross-selling and cross-synergies in terms of how it operates as a destination.”

With tourism on the rise in The Bahamas, The Pointe is eager to tap into emerging trends such as heritage tourism and the desire for authentic experiences. By putting Bahamian culture front and centre, CCA hopes to distinguish the property and give it a cultural identity.

Beukes says: “Tourists want a rich cultural experience these days, especially people coming off cruise ships. You can go to a resort like this anywhere in the world, but you can’t experience this culture anywhere in the world. Specific components of the resort will be customized to reflect the Bahamian culture.”

Bahamian art will feature prominently in the resort’s design and there will be a nod to Bahamian architecture throughout the property with Beukes describing the look and feel as “contemporary Bahamian.”

“We want a new, modern lifestyle element but at the same time preserving and respecting the culture,” adds Liu.

The Bahamas’ tourism sector has largely been dominated by megaresorts with Atlantis and Baha Mar generating most of the room revenue. The Pointe’s boutique feel will be a sharp contrast to these industry giants and there is room in the market for both according to Beukes, who highlights the degree of collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders in the sector. “We are not competing with Atlantis and Baha Mar because we are a very boutique product. We all realize that the more we can stimulate the destination as a whole, the better it is for everybody. The sum of the parts is worth more than the single part.

“We are taking a very small piece of a big market segment and, in our view, that segment will grow. Tourism is very strong in this country and we believe it will continue to be so.”

Challenges and changes
While The Pointe development is on track and on time, it hasn’t been without its challenges. A project of this size and scope involves a major effort behind the scenes in terms of resources, administration and costs. For Beukes, simply getting the concept off the ground took immense effort. “The big challenge was at the master plan stage. You put 10 knowledgeable people in a room and they will have 10 completely different concepts of a resort that works in this setting,” he says.

“It took a while to finalize. We had challenges with the logistics, the location and a lot of scrutiny. It takes guts, experience and vision to do something like this,” adds Liu.

CCA certainly had the experience. The company is a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corp Ltd, the world’s largest construction and real estate firm, which has been steadily increasing its presence in the Caribbean region in recent years. Liu says the firm has a lot of confidence in The Bahamas thanks to its stable government, good relationship with China and growing opportunities.

“We have always paid a lot of attention to The Bahamas. This shows our commitment to continuing investment here,” he says. “The Pointe will have a major impact on The Bahamas so we hope the government will continue supporting us and be proactive in helping us complete the project.”

As tourism grows in The Bahamas, so do the opportunities. Beukes wants the government to be ready to grasp those opportunities and says: “The world of finance is changing. The importance and attractiveness of offshore financial jurisdictions is changing. Governments have to understand that they have to go and sell the country. The old days of the world just coming to you have changed. You have to sell yourself to potential investors and developers. We encourage them to continue doing more of that.”

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