|28-story hotel offers jobs, government revenue||| Print ||
|Written by Richard Greenemail@example.com|
|Thursday, 19 July 2012 11:36|
A proposed 28-story hotel and conference center on Grace Bay would provide much needed jobs and government revenue but dwarf other buildings on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
But that won’t happen unless the public supports the interim government in changing the law to allow building higher than the current seven-story limit with increased density.
It is not a done deal, governor’s spokesman Neil Smith stressed at the beginning of a public meeting July 18.
Nearly 300 people packed the Gustarvus Lightbourne Sports Complex to hear the proposal by Hugh D. McLean, a Providenciales lawyer spearheading the project that would offer hundreds of 4-star hotel rooms that would be much cheaper than high-end resorts.
Reaction was mixed, with obvious support for jobs and economic incentives but with serious concerns about size, location, design and environmental impact.
Euwonka Selver summarized what many were thinking. She questioned the impact on environment, fire protection, construction problems with such tall structures, and the strain on infrastructure. She suggested building wider rather than higher, noting that one exception would lead to more taller buildings “which is what we don’t want in the Turks and Caicos because it is beautiful by nature.”
“So do we really need more tourists here who have less money to spend?” she asked. “Because if we have droves of people coming down here with no money to spend, it’s not going to benefit our economy at all. It’s only going to further damage our environment because more visitors means more pollution.”
She suggested more jobs would be created by completing all the unfinished projects throughout the country than by McLean’s project.
McLean detailed the plan and financial impact, but he couldn’t address many specific questions at this early stage in the proposal. He explained that without approval for height and density, investors are not willing to spend millions proceeding and addressing all those concerns only to be turned down because of height and density.
Neither will the project buy land without approval, McLean said. Already one parcel under consideration — property west of the Sands that was formerly planned for a development called Mandalay — was snapped up by Desarrollos Hotelco Turks & Caicos Ltd. (DHTCI), a subsidiary of the Desarrollos Hotelco Group of Venezuela, he said.
That group says it is “exploring the development” of two resort hotels on the property that won’t require increases in height restrictions. It also acquired the 11 acres west of Seven Stars, also for a hotel development within current height restrictions.
McLean said if his project is approved, it would have to meet all other government requirements without any other concessions, including customs duty and taxes, McLean said.
The project must be so tall — one 28-story and two 22-story buildings — because that’s the only way to pack all the rooms and amenities onto any one of the small beachfront properties left on Grace Bay, McLean explained. With 600 rooms and a 12,000-square-foot/600-seat conference centre, the project would be able to draw Fortune 500 business conferences that currently are impossible on Providenciales because of lack of space and the high cost of rooms.
The project would create around 500 construction jobs. When complete, it would create nearly 500 permanent full-time jobs — 447 hospitality positions and 35 management — with a goal of 75 percent Turks and Caicos Islanders, McLean said.
The project expects to pump more than $300 million into government coffers over the first 20 years, excluding the boost for TCI businesses created by increased tourism.
The project’s commercial properties will be offered to islanders at a 50-percent discount to help local business, McLean said.
McLean said current resort owners and hoteliers are worried that such a huge increase in rooms — 200 hotel rooms and 400 condominiums — would cause prices to drop, but he claims the opposite would be true because more people could afford to come to the Turks and Caicos Islands and potentially buy properties in other developments.
“A hungry belly is a bad political advisor,” said former government Chief Minister Washington Misick, warning of the lure of financial incentives during hard economic times.
He said current planning restrictions and zoning need to be carefully changed to allow more height and density in the future, but that should be done by an elected government.
“I think there is a will here to work with a genuine developer who wants to act in the best interests of the people of these islands and in the interest of the developer because obviously the developer has to do well,” Misick said. “We don’t expect you to come here and do anything gratuitously.”
McLean pointed out that the proposal has been developing without knowing when elections would be held. Delaying now could kill the project because a newly elected government has many things to deal with when it resumes control after Nov. 9 elections.
Feedback and comments are being sought until Aug. 1 in writing to the Governor’s Office, Waterloo, Grand Turk, or by e-mail to
Photo: Richard Green/Staff
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