Residents of Abaco were given their first official information concerning a major development being considered for South Abaco as the developer held a public meeting in Sandy Point on April 9 to share details and answer questions.
The project was initially revealed by Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar during a town meeting in Marsh Harbour in December of 2018, with the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minis, revealing a bit more in his National Address in January of this year.
Dr. Minnis revealed a proposed “Tyrsoz family” project that will bring a $580 million investment in South Abaco for the “development of a five-star residential resort and marina which will involve the upgrade and expansion of the Sandy Point airstrip, the development of Sandy Point ferry dock as a cargo transshipment port and construction area, and the extension of Queen’s Highway in South Abaco.”
The Tyrsoz Family Holdings town meeting was headed by Ra’anan “Ronnie” Ben-Zur, the company’s financial advisor and real estate developer
Mr. Ben-Zur shared with the audience, numbered well over 100 persons from all parts of Abaco, that the Tyrsoz is a company made up of his six children and that he is heading the project for them.
He took a moment to address concerns of his relationship with the other projects that in the past were considered, all of which had two men in common; Steve Harrell II, CEO of Kakona, and Thomas Boynton, CFO.
He told ‘The Abaconian’ that in the early stages of developing plans for the properties on Abaco he had engaged with these men, but several months in he said that it was clear that their vision for development was not compatible with the direction he was going, and they parted ways.
He said that the project as presented is not in any way connected with those men or their company.
Mr. Ben-Zur told residents that when they originally acquired the properties, they were not very familiar with the area, and given the combined sizes of the two areas at 1,100 acres the initial plan was for something much larger.
Since visiting and viewing the areas he said they are now proposing a low-density, ultra-luxury hotel, residential and marina development to take advantage of the secluded, undeveloped coastal region of South Abaco. The sites include the areas at Lantern Head and South West Point just west of the Lighthouse and Hole-In-The-Wall.
He said that the project would be undertaken with a sound economical footing “yet designed with great care and responsibility to the environment and original nature of the area, it is intended to provide significant ongoing and expanding employment opportunities for the community and important infrastructure improvements for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.”
Responding to concerns of the funding behind the development he said that his company French Quarters Holdings has a successful history in real estate and development and that he would not start a development unless he knew he could complete the project.
Mr. Ben-Zur said his goal was to create a world-class, environmentally-sustainable luxury island retreat with local appeal via the participating community, while importantly, maintaining South Abaco’s natural charm.
While the brochure provided indicated that the developer Tyrsoz has secured the support of two world class luxury hotel brands, he only mentioned one during the meeting, but was unable to provide a name at this time due to a confidentiality agreement with the hotel.
He said that they are also proposing to donate back to the government some of the area under contract.
While the company is still very much in the conceptual phase, Mr. Ben-Zur said that the Lantern Head property is envisioned to be a very low density, private, secluded community anchored by an ultra-luxury hotel of 50 large suites with private pools amidst lush local landscaping, and a nearby golf course and tennis courts.
He said that there are planned to be seventy-six residential home lots of 1-acre or more providing their future owners with spectacular views and amazing beaches, along with the intent to make the hotel a strong contender to be included in “top hotels of the world” lists.
Mr. Ben-Zur said that the South West Point will be home to a proposed superyacht marina which will include 136 slips, have all the necessary/appropriate service features and facilitate Port of Entry status. He added that it will practically be the first meaningful superyachts marina in the North America region.
He said that the marina has been designed to minimize impacts to marine resources to the furthest extent practicable and will be located on the western shore near the southern side of the island to take advantage of the naturally occurring deep waters of the existing near-shore channel, and utilizes the calm waters off the western coast of the island for safe navigation.
Adjacent to the marina there is proposed to be a high-end Marina Village with yacht, fishing, and scuba charter offices, boutique shops, restaurants and bars, and all other necessities to ensure a vibrant marina atmosphere.
Mr. Ben-Zur added that they will also engage in projects designed to benefit both their guests and the community, including a Medical Centre at the South West Point, expansion of the Sandy Point Airport runway and Immigration and Customs facilities, though it will be designated for private use with plans to allow locals to pay no landing fees, expansion and improvement of the road to the lighthouse and a $9 million fund for entrepreneurs.
South West Point, aside from the marina and Marina Village will also feature, and Artist & Cultural Village which persons can live in free of charge to produce art, utilities (including as much alternative energy production as practical), a 75-room luxury hotel and a 100-room standard service hotel, along with approximately 80 residential home lots and a Water Park.
He said that the total projected investment in the Project is expected to be $580 million and added that the expected return/economic impact for Abaco in ten years to be in the area of $2 billion.
Over the course of the project he said they expect to employ as much as 927 locals during construction phase, and at stabilization of the operation of the properties about 600 locals.
Mr. Ben-Zur reassured residents that local involvement is central to the success of the proposed venture, as currently there are no tourism related attractions in the area. He specified that he is proposing to ensure an 80 percent local workforce for the project and its operation.
He also noted that they would work with Bahamas National Trust including providing significant financial support for Trust’s master plan for the development of the National Park. They would also seek to assist in the development of a nature preserve.
He said they would also look at restoring the iconic Hole-in-the Wall Lighthouse to its original glory along with the auxiliary buildings, under the supervision of the BNT and relevant agencies, as well as creating access to the beaches on the south side of the island.