THE proposed US$130 million Black Bay Hotel will be a huge boost to the economy in the south, said both the developers and the government during a recent signing cermony.
On Tuesday, the company signed a definitive agreement with the Government of St. Lucia with Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Mohammed Asaria, Vice Chairman of Range Developments, leading the signing ceremony which took place in the conference room of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Asaria said the 180-room luxury branded hotel and villa to be constructed in Black Bay, said his company looks forward to working with the farmers and the government and people of St. Lucia to make the project a reality.
During the construction phase, over 500 people will be hired, with the same number of people obtaining indirect employment and a similar number hired during its operational phase.
“Range is well known for its social responsibility. It is something we take very seriously. We have made a number of commitments to the government in terms of training (and) working with the local community with the hospitality scholarships we will be offering,” he said.
In May last year, Range Developments signed a framework agreement with the Government of St. Lucia to acquire the Black Bay lands and develop the area into an integrated master plan luxury touristic community. The hotel will be the central anchor of the Black Bay Master Development and will be partially financed under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).
The Black Bay Master Development will consist of a luxury branded hotel and villas, a small marina, and other amenities set on 180 acres on the unspoilt southern tip of the island. The site is on the Caribbean southwest coast within easy reach of Hewanorra International Airport and the Pitons, the world-famous heritage site. The Black Bay Master Development will be developed in a number of phases and construction is expected to start in the first quarter of next year with a completion date set for the end of 2020.
According to the developers initial agreements have been signed with a hotel operator (one of the top three hotel operators globally). In keeping with the company’s ethos, the project aims to be a leader in its class and built to the highest standards. It will also be an ultra-luxury hotel (five-star plus) and will be one of the leading hotels in the Eastern Caribbean.
Range Developments, an international hospitality developer, was established in 2011 with the vision to develop ultra-luxury resorts in areas of remarkable natural beauty. It boasts itself as a market leader in funding hotel projects through CIP, claiming that its track record is unquestioned. The Black Bay Resort will be the third of such luxury projects it has undertaken. The others are the Park Hyatt in St. Kitts, which is advancing towards completion, and the construction of the Kempinski Dominica, which is ahead of schedule and expected to open next year.
However, farmers in Black Bay who will be relocated on account of the luxury resort to be built there, are concerned about a number of things, among them being a satisfactory relocation site.
President of the Black Bay Small Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd, Craig Jn. Charles, said the availability of water to sustain farmers’ operations is also of immense concern.
He explained that six or seven farmers have been approached by Invest St. Lucia with respect for relocation to other sites to make way for the resort’s construction.
“So far, we have been meeting with Invest St. Lucia as to how we, (the Cooperative) can accommodate the farmers within the perimeters of the land we have been entrusted to by Invest St. Lucia. We have been given some time and hope that by the end of it all, we will be able to satisfy our farmers,” Jn. Charles said.
The lands the farmers now use are near a river from which they get water for irrigation. They also live near those lands. As such, relocation might mean either a loss of their water supply or a greater distance from their homes, factors they are concerned about, Jn. Charles said.
However, the situation is being dealt with by both Jn. Charles and the legal officer for Invest St. Lucia, Samantha Charles.
“I know there will be challenging issues but I have the confidence that our farmers will be taken care of. Invest St. Lucia has been very cooperative with us and working with us,” Jn. Charles said.
Charles said that the aim is to regularize the farmers but also having them stay within the Black Bay area or as close by as possible since they have been farming the area for quite some time.
“We are trying to come up with a situation that will make everybody happy,” she said.