|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
June 22, 2010
June 22, 2010
One of the most beautiful of The Bahamas’ 700 islands, Abaco has long been a popular choice with vacationers and residents. Over the years, it has also attracted big investment. Colourful entrepreneur and long-time resident of The Bahamas, the late Alexis Nihon was not one to pass up a bargain, purchasing a large swathe of prime beachfront property on Great Abaco in 1962. This 40-acre plot is now being developed by his son and grandson as a self-financing, 24-lot luxury community called Serenity Point.
Hailing from Canada, the Nihon family has strong ties with The Bahamas and, now, the family’s company Anco Lands Ltd, spearheaded by Nihon’s son, president Alexis Nihon II, is hoping to capitalize on the island’s natural beauty, whilst staying true to the previous generation’s vision for the island.
Bringing over 40 years of executive experience in international real estate markets and private equity, Nihon II is the former chairman of the Canadian-based Alexis Nihon Corp (subsequently the Alexis Nihon REIT) and has overseen large development projects in Quebec as well as throughout Canada. Since permanently returning to The Bahamas in 2008, he has turned his attention to the large tracts of land in Great Abaco bought by his father.
“My grandfather spotted the plot and thought it was beautiful,” says Alexis Nihon’s grandson, vice president of development at Anco Lands Alexis Nihon III. “Now, my father is honouring that vision.”
Serenity Point is being billed as an innovative new project that aims to deliver luxury housing together with unique energy-saving initiatives and custom built designs. A Builders Programme gives lot owners the chance to be involved throughout the construction process, collaborating with Florida-based architectural firm Chancey Design Partnership to choose their own schematic designs and build the home of their dreams–provided the plans adhere to certain landscaping and ecological guidelines, and fit the overall ethos of the community.
The lots start at around $600,000 and the homes can be built to individuals’ budgets. This model is one that the vice president of development is confident offers a unique point of sale to buyers. “It can be very daunting to build your own home in another country, so we are putting it in front of them, and putting our stamp of approval on it,” says Nihon III. “We think that buyers are looking for that turnkey solution.”
The company began selling lots in March this year and, according to the developers, the project has generated a lot of interest from prospective buyers in the US, the UK and Canada.
By purchasing a lot in the community, buyers will have access to a private beach club, complete with an infinity pool, tennis courts and a concierge service, which can arrange personal chefs, private yacht rentals, fishing charters and diving trips. Other activities on offer include horseback riding, bonefish fishing and cave exploration expeditions.
Although luxury is obviously a major concern to buyers, the environmental footprint of their homes is also important to a generation of more eco-conscious investors. The company’s responsible attitude toward the local environment and its wish to have the least possible impact on the surrounding natural ecosystems are becoming increasingly attractive selling points.
According to Nihon III, water conservation is particularly important, and the site will feature a comprehensive irrigation system using reservoirs capable of holding up to 100,000 gallons of rain water. Lot owners will also be compelled to keep one 20,000 gallon tank on their properties.
“This will save millions of gallons of water yearly, substantially reducing the energy burden on the government to supply our community with water–an increasingly scarce resource in The Bahamas,” he says.
In addition to the water conservation system, each property will have its own solar-powered golf cart, reducing pollution and non-renewable energy use throughout the site.
The community’s clubhouse will also make use of solar panels and every property will have access to recyclable waste disposal services.
In line with these green credentials, the designs follow a policy of low maintenance indigenous landscaping, in an attempt to keep disruption of the local land to a minimum and ensure that the community is in keeping with the natural beauty of Abaco.
Keeping up with the Lindroths
In this, Serenity Point is learning from its neighbour, Schooner Bay Village–another development just minutes away that will include restaurants, retail outlets, inns and a farmer’s market. The site is being developed by Lindroth Development Co, which bought 220 acres of land from Anco Lands in 2007 for its construction.
The Lindroths are another family with a strong connection to The Bahamas and a similar vision for its development. With Schooner Bay, they hope to replicate the success they had with the exclusive Old Fort Bay community on New Providence. The new project on Abaco will use green energy sources where appropriate, invest in recycling of waste material and encourage travel by bicycle or on foot to reduce pollution.
Nihon III says this type of project sets an example Serenity Point is keen to follow and one that he hopes sets a precedent throughout the area. “We are learning from them [Schooner Bay Village] as we go, and we would like to see that continue throughout all of South Abaco,” he explains.
Such developments are part of an overall resurgence currently being enjoyed by Abaco–one of the fastest growing islands in The Bahamas and the country’s third largest economy after New Providence and Grand Bahama. “Abaco is unique because it is on an upwards trajectory during a time when most places are not, or have stalled,” says Nihon III.
Private developers and government initiatives are helping to bolster the region, with new projects such as the Delphi Lodge–an upscale bonefish fishing lodge, which opened at the end of 2009–and The Abaco Club, which was bought by luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton in 2008, both opening in tandem with a redevelopment of the Marsh Harbour International Airport.
While Abaco might be experiencing something of an economic resurgence, the recent recession is still a concern for many developers. However, unlike some other developments in The Bahamas, the Serenity Point project is entirely self-financing and the land already bought and paid for, so there is no chance of default. The developers are confident that the sound financial basis and value of the product will attract buyers regardless of the gloomy economic climate.
“As my father says, ‘as long as you have a quality product that represents value the right buyer will find you,’ and that is what we hope for,” says Nihon III. “We are confident that the beauty of our product, along with the value proposition it represents, will entice seasoned buyers looking for an ideal second home location as a sound investment in this market.”
The vision for Serenity Point has come a long way from Alexis Nihon’s first land purchase in 1962. According to his grandson, the development will be the realization of his forefather’s dream. “It is a landmark development and we are doing everything we can to the very best of our ability,” he says.
“I think he would be proud.”
Abaco economy on the up
The Abaco island chain is 120 miles long, with the two main hubs being Great Abaco and Little Abaco. Known primarily as a top sailing and boating location, the tourist appeal of these islands has made them a popular stop for vacationers, and in recent years private developers and investors have seen their potential too–contributing to a period of steady growth that is benefitting not only the local community, but the wider Bahamian economy.
Timeline of growth:
• Lindroth Development acquires land in Great Abaco from Anco Lands, the future site of Schooner Bay Village.
• Phillips Property International begins developing a gated community, Pineapple Point Resort, in Treasure Cay.
• Ritz-Carlton completes take over of The Abaco Club and begins work on its expansion, due to be completed in 2010.
• Work begins on a $19-million public project to construct a government complex in Marsh Harbour, designed to house services such as the Road Traffic department, Magistrates’ courts and a clinic.
• Contracts signed to complete the upgrade of Marsh Harbour Airport–a project that is estimated to be worth around $8 million.
• Delphi Lodge opens at Rolling Harbour, Great Abaco.
• Construction begins at Serenity Point.
• Christmas tourist arrivals to the island increase five per cent from the previous year.