The Largest Second Home Development in the Western Hemisphere Closer to Completion: Baha Mar, the Bahamas

Nassau3.23.13 (46).jpgbeach privateIt’s the most talked about second home resort in the western world, located on a shimmering Bahamian beach dubbed the new French Riviera.

Baha Mar is a $3.5 BILLION mega-resort under construction now in Nassau, The Bahamas. Thousands of construction crews are working around the clock, working so diligently they add one full story to the hotel towers every ten days. It is the largest resort under construction in the Western Hemisphere and has been described as Vegas with 3000 feet of beach.

Here’s how majorly buzzed this resort is: I was at a national real estate editor’s conference, talking, actually, to the developer of another major resort in the Caymans. I mentioned that I had visited Baha Mar and was very impressed. Her eyes grew wide.

“You should be,” she said. “Everyone knows about Baha Mar, everyone is watching it. Even developers think it will set total major new standards of luxury in the Caribbean resort world.”

And this came from the competition!

BahaMar_CGI_Birdseye_2Such a development is the colossal Baha Mar mega-resort. The $3.5 billion, yes, with a “B” project is set on 1,000 acres of prime beach front paradise and will soon become one of the world’s largest, most luxurious resorts with everything jet-setting second home owners who love water could desire, and then more.

And then, even more!

The total square footage of the development is expected to hit 3.3 million, with every square inch devoted to luxury. Baha Mar will open formally in December, 2014. There will be four hotels including a luxury Grand Hyatt, Rosewood, and Mondrian and the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel. All of the hotels will surround a 100,000 square foot casino that promises to combine the best of Las Vegas and Monte Carlo. Jack Nicklaus himself is directing construction of a brand new 18-hole Nicklaus Signature golf course. The resort will include 40+ luxury retail stores, 30+ restaurants, bars and nightclubs all set on one of the world’s most spectacular beaches.

Baha Mar is selling 284 private residences total for everyone’s taste. There will be one bedroom condominiums to three bedroom penthouses, and four bedroom total beach villas all overlooking miles and miles of sparkling clear, aqua blue ocean.

Perhaps the best news yet: the lift will be so convenient, you will practically land at the resort. Seriously, Baha Mar has already invested in building more than $250 million new tree-lined boulevards that will connect the resort to Nassau’s sparkling new Lynden Pindling International Airport with only a 10 minute ride. Lynden Pindling is the largest airport in The Bahamas, and was recently enlarged even more. If you fly private, you can depart the mainland and be on the beach by ten. Fly commercial, you can early-bird it from DFW via Miami in the morning, and be on the beach by afternoon.

One of the most interesting facts about this ambitious development is how it is leading the Bahamas out of the worst recession since The Great Depression.

In April 2005, Lyford Cay-based property developer Sarkis Izmirlian put together the newly-formed Baha Mar Development Company and purchased three aging dowager hotels on Nassau’s Cable Beach.

Baha Mar Development worked closely with the Bahamian government and put together plans for a multi-billion play world on Cable Beach that would include private residences, hotels, a casino, retail village, convention centre, state of the art expanded and enlarged golf course, plus of course beach and pool amenities.

But, then, the perfect storm: The U.S. housing market came crashing down, with Europe to follow, like a twin domino.

March, 2009. I remember the mood well, even in “we escaped-the-recession” Texas. (Yes, the tee shirts exist.) Real estate was glum, depressing, and no one was moving unless they absolutely had to or were carried out of their homes feet first. Banks were as dry as the the Sahara.

Baha Mar, rather than folding the tent, looked east for it’s fortune, to the cash-rich Chinese government.

That’s where the magic happened.

China’s Export-Import Bank agreed to arrange $2.5 billion in construction financing and the China State Construction & Engineering Company (the largest construction company in the world) signed on to build the project. The plan called for Baha Mar to feature four luxury hotels and add 2,200 hotel rooms and condos to the country’s current inventory.

By supporting Baha Mar’s development, the Bahamian government created 4,000 more Bahamian jobs, $400 million in Bahamian construction contracts, and $8 million for training Bahamian workers. After all, white glove hotels were coming in and the staffs needed detailed training to kick service up a notch or so..

Bahamian firms got their contracts, and the China State Construction & Engineering Company got to work. The developer also covered the cost of a fancy new electrical substation, built a central sewerage system, and even a reverse osmosis plant for potable water. Massive on-site generators guaranteed to keep the resort juiced up even after a storm for several weeks. Then the developer did even more economic hand-stands: when work on the $75 million road to the airport, named “JFK” by Bahamians, was stalled and slowed, Chinese workers pitched in and helped to finish it. Despite the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War of yesteryear, this part of the Caribbean likes Americans enough to name a major street after an American president.

Why do you want this second home resort development on your radar?

Baha_Mar_CGI_1_LR[1] BML_ConstructionAerial_DSC_0018_LR[1]If you are considering a second home for purchase in a beautiful beach environment, this is it, baby. Buy now or keep Baha Mar on your radar. 284 residences are available for sale, starting at about $1.2 million, each with a killer water view. Baha Mar has the magic of great climate, sunshine and surf which means if you buy here, you will enjoy the water every day and every day will be like, well, vacation!

“The views are endless,” says Tom Dunlap, president of Baha Mar Development. Dunlap cut his teeth at Walt Disney Co. as vice president of Imagineering, then built a few billion dollar plus resorts in California and Costa Rica. Now he’s the man in charge of constructing every molecule of the resort from 9,000 sheets of drawings!

It is in the design of Baha Mar where you most see the fingerprints of world-class developer Sarkis Izmirlian. Izmirlian’s charge to the teams of architects and designers was to create a place that provided all of the luxuries anyone could imagine in a five-star resort, but preserve the authentic look and feel of the Bahamas. Like the waterfalls and brightly colored stucco buildings that pop out and make you feel brighter just from the ocular jolt. Bahaman art will be proudly displayed and promoted.

“Fads and trends will come and go,” says Izmirlian, “but when you are true to your surroundings, that will never go away.”

When you see the design of Baha Mar, the entire development looks and feels like the Bahamas. When you get a look at the uncompromising luxury of the finishes in the residences, your reaction is that someone really was very careful, thoughtful, almost obsessive about how they planned Baha Mar, as if they were matching the perfect weather.

“It’s absolutely beautiful (in Nassau) every day, ” Dunlap told The Bahamas Investor. “When you build these great resorts, it’s kind of like building a stage set. We are in a location where the people have been in the hospitality business for a long time, and understand the importance of our guests having a wonderful time.”

Baha Mar is becoming the poster child of a development that is doing everything RIGHT: the sophistication and solidarity of the developer, the construction genius of Tom Dunlap, a $3.6 billion USD infusion from China, and top brand names of the major hospitality players committed: Grand Hyatt, Rosewood and Mondrian.

BahaMar_Construction_NightDunlap says Bahamas buyers tend be 80% American, and 10% each Canadians and Europeans. Baha Mar, just this month, began marketing in the United States so you will likely begin seeing and hearing much more about the resort. Baha Mar is also attracting an international jet-setting crowd with purchasers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Because of the generally low cost of living in the Bahamas and the virtual absence of property or income taxes, the Bahamas has become one of the world’s top retirement meccas as well as a jet-setter playground.

While some second home purchasers are interested in a resort like Baha Mar because of the rental income a popular resort property can provide, most are looking for a place to create family memories in one of the world’s most beautiful water and natural marine life havens. They want expansive beach front, plus clean, sparkling warm waters, perfect weather and activities 24/7 the moment they arrive. That could be swim, snorkel, scuba, sun and jet ski, or it could be boat rides to explore private islands, lolling on a yacht, golf on signature courses, tennis, fitness, spa, arts and theater.

And always, of course, shopping for the glamorous nights at the casino.

“The affluent buyer is no longer focused on zip codes,” says Laurie Moore-Moore, a Dallas-based real estate consultant at The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. “The uber wealthy have become a tribe unto themselves where they find each other through common activities. They want stories and experiences, not just products.”

“This is a group that has become less local, far more global,” she says. “They find themselves through Wimbledon, The World Cup, Monte Carlo, Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, sailing and great beaches.”

“We have new infrastructure, increased airlift and transportation,” says Tom Dunlap. “With the level of public infrastructure and private investment, I believe Baha Mar and The Bahamas are perched to hit a home run when we open in 2014.”

Home run? After my recent visit to the Baha Mar construction site and teases of the housing to come, I’d say it’s out of the ballpark!BML_ConstructionAerial_DSC_0027_LR[1]

 

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