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Features - July 2008



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Royal Island fit for a king

Royal Island fit for a king

Luxury development in prime location close to great places but far enough away to offer complete tranquility

The Bahamas Investor Magazine
July 3, 2008
July 3, 2008
David Johnston

If you seek a peaceful private island retreat, away from the hustle and pressure of building your fortune, you need look no further than Royal Island.

Royal Island is everything its name implies: a jewel in the crown of the Bahamian archipelago. It’s an ideal second home location for those whose busy lives don’t allow for time-consuming travel to far-flung destinations for yearly vacations. The 430-acre private island is a mere four-mile hop from Eleuthera, only 50 miles from Nassau and 190 miles east of Miami. The nearby North Eleuthera Airport receives regular commercial flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Southern Air and Bahamasair provide flights from Nassau, which can be reached directly from a number of US and Canadian cities. All this means is that when playtime is over you can return to the hectic whirl of your business life in a matter of hours.

With this in mind, a consortium of developers is looking to make this picture-perfect island more accessible to the well-heeled. The exclusive Royal Island Bahamas Caribbean Resort is a multi-million dollar development that will include a world-class golf course, high-end residential community, a marina and hotel. With work under way, developers Cypress Equities, The Staubach Company, and Behringer Harvard are sparing no expense to create a resort founded on opulence and luxury.

“A friend of mine brought Royal Island to my attention,” says Roger Staubach, chairman and CEO of The Staubach Company. “At that time it was being planned by another organization and we worked with them to purchase the island in early 2006, and start our vision for the site. Today, the island’s plan reflects our vision as a private island paradise with all the amenities imaginable.”

Developing a business
The National Football League legend-turned-developer founded The Staubach Company in 1977 to provide real estate advisory services to office, retail, and industrial clients. Cypress Equities was formed in 1995 as the development affiliate of The Staubach Company and now has six development offices in the US and one in Nassau on the island of New Providence. The company mainly focuses on portfolio acquisitions and project development, particularly high-quality retail development projects, hotel and resort properties.

Staubach says he had been looking for an opportunity to work with Behringer Harvard over the past year or so and Royal Island presented the perfect opportunity. “First and foremost, this is a private island. Security and safety are key benefits to be derived from living here,” points out Staubach. “The immediate proximity to the US, to Nassau and to Harbour Island allows Royal to be conveniently close to other great places, but far enough away so that one can enjoy the tranquility of our island paradise. Just the fact that it is an island with no existing development means that we can start with a blank slate and work towards our vision. We are delighted to kick off our relationship [with Behringer Harvard] with this distinctive project.”

The vision is an ambitious one, featuring every conceivable leisure and pleasure amenity for residents and vacationing guests. The private residential community will feature high-end oceanfront estate home sites, oceanfront villas and marina villas. The 270 single-family residences will be erected on breathtaking home sites ranging from one-third of an acre to 15 acres.

Among the many value-added amenities will be a theatre for both live performances and movies, a superior fitness facility and kids’ club. The marina village will include sidewalk cafés, shops, a business centre, medical centre as well as all necessary customs and immigration for the harbour. There will also be a watercraft fleet from jet skis to yachts that one can hire, wireless Internet access throughout the resort and the superior Royal Island concierge service which can provide one with anything, whenever one wants it.

Luxury living
“This is luxury living at its very best,” says Royal Island sales and marketing manager Guy Famigilietti. “At Royal Island Bahamas Caribbean Resort, you will be able to own an opulent oceanfront mansion and live among like-minded people. Soak up stunning sunshine … while being entertained and pampered every minute of every day.”

And if that isn’t enough, the entire eastern section of the island will be solely devoted to the golf experience. Adding a touch of glamour, the consortium has teamed up with Jack Nicklaus and Nicklaus Design to build the prestigious Jack Nicklaus Golf Club which will include a clubhouse, golf course and Nicklaus Home. It will be one of “only 25 elite Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses located in ideal markets around the world,” said Cypress Equities CEO Chris Maguire. Royal Island is the first participating club worldwide selected by Jack Nicklaus and given his special designation.

Initial clearing for the 18-hole Signature Course and Golf Club began in 2007, with completion of the golf course scheduled for late 2010 and clubhouse by mid 2011.

Deep-water marina
Royal Island will also include a deep-water marina with more than 200 slips able to accommodate craft from 50 to 400 feet.

The marina will be designed and managed by Moffat & Nichol Marina and Coastal Design in conjunction with Dream Harbours marina management. “Planning, design and permitting are all underway now, with construction already started,” says John Swanson of Dream Harbours. “We are actively involved with engineers to ensure a great design and first-class operations plan.”

Bob Nathan of Moffat & Nichol says the marina will cater to high-end clientele. “The Royal Island Marina will provide owners and guests with the finest amenities expected by luxury vessel owners. We are designing for current and future marina needs.”

The marina will also house a boutique hotel, operated by Montage Hotels & Resorts, which will feature 60 guest rooms and 23 suites, as well as 76 oceanfront and marina villa residences, a spa, four restaurants, a beach club, tennis and of course, access to the Jack Nicklaus golf course. Phase I of the marina is slated to be open by late 2010, along with the Turtle Beach Club and The Montage Royal Island hotel.

Alan Fuerstman, founder and CEO of Montage Hotels & Resorts, says his company “is extremely pleased and honoured to partner with Cypress Equities in this innovative private island community. We share their vision of creating a unique resort and residential hideaway on this pristine island. We look forward to playing an active role serving the local community of Royal Island and the surrounding Bahamian islands.”

Currently, the site has five completed villas which are available for short-stay visits to experience the site. Potential buyers are treated to seven-course meals and invited to enjoy all the amenities of the Melanie Beach Club, including a wide variety of water sports, fishing expeditions, site tours and the unspoiled beauty of the crystal-clear waters of The Bahamas.

“Melanie Beach Club dining is now open for island real estate guests only and the other restaurants will open starting late 2010,” says Staubach. “Plans are for five or six restaurants in total on the island.” According to Staubach, owner occupancy may start as early as this summer in some of the villas.

“Once developed, Royal Island should be well-positioned to become the premier luxury resort and residential community in The Bahamas,” said Robert M Behringer, founder and CEO of Behringer Harvard. “This one-of-a-kind opportunity is a unique and dynamic investment considering the ongoing demand for vacation homes and the current desire by many for an exclusive Caribbean vacation destination close to the US mainland.”

High-end customers
This may be the case, but for many investors alarm bells have been ringing over recent months. The downturn in the US economy and the global domino effect has ground many large development projects to a halt. Staubach, however, is not concerned that such bearish sentiment will have any effect on the Royal Island project.

“At this end of the market, there really has not been an impact,” he says. “The nature of Royal Island makes it quite desirable and our potential buyers have not shown any hesitation in our presales process. [They say:] ‘I am buying, as this is the right place for me and my extended family.’ The economy is not a factor in that decision in any way.”

The developers are currently engaged in acquiring all necessary permits and agreements from the government of The Bahamas in order to proceed with all phases of the project.

The major infrastructure such as water, electricity, sewage, and roads is being built as the island develops.

“In general terms, infrastructure will be complete in late 2008 and into early 2009. This will facilitate much of the other construction activities and will continue as development spreads across the island property,” says Staubach. Most all components or amenities are slated to be completed at approximately the same time as the resort hotel opens.

Staubach praises the Bahamian government for sharing and supporting his vision to create an exclusive community on Royal Island. “Our dealings with the government of The Bahamas have been excellent. As in any large-scale project, there are issues to overcome and challenges to be met and we feel that the process has moved along quite well. We don’t anticipate any changes in our strong relationship with the Bahamian government and this cooperative relationship will continue with a successful opening of the Montage Resort, marina, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club and Beach Clubs in late 2010.”

Until now, Royal Island has been uninhabited, undeveloped and its natural assets have been overlooked. The resort development will offer access to this unspoiled paradise. Sandy beaches will border the resort to the north and 20 to 30 foot bluffs hem the southern edge. In addition, the island’s exceptionally high elevations and 15 miles of coastline offer spectacular views that are found on few other Bahamian islands. The asset also includes two adjacent islands that are available for future development. For those with the means, there is no better time than now to grab a slice of paradise.

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