Written by Neil Hartnell of The Tribune
Sebas Bastian’s Brickell Management Group is entering the resort industry with a 226-unit condo hotel as part of a $200m western New Providence development set to create over 500 full-time jobs at completion.
The gaming entrepreneur’s Venetian Village project, which is also forecast to generate up to 400 construction jobs, will be built-out over a six-year period on a 68-acre site adjacent to the Old Fort Bay Town Centre’s western boundary as well as Venetian West.
Ansel Watson, Brickell Management Group’s president, told Tribune Business that the developer is aiming to break ground and start construction this year subject to receiving all the necessary government permits and approvals. With the public consultation on Venetian Village’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) set for March 2, 2023, as part of the process for obtaining a Certificate of Environmental Clearance, he pledged it will have “a good impact” for the economy.
“The proposed development, Venetian Village, is situated in western New Providence in the vicinity of Old Fort Bay and encompasses approximately 68 acres. Venetian Village is a $200m capital expenditure for a mixed-use development featuring commercial, residential and recreational facilities to be constructed over two phases,” said the EIA, completed in October 2022 by Waypoint Consulting.
“Project components include commercial office and retail space; [a 75-room] condo hotel; residences including town homes and condos; open space and recreational facilities; tennis courts; utilities, roadways and parking.” Some 22 of the project’s 68 acres, accounting for almost one-third of the site, had already been cleared in anticipation of future development. It will be located opposite Charlotteville between the Old Fort Bay and town centre roundabouts.
Mr Watson yesterday said the condo-style resort “will be a 226-unit hotel” rather than the 75 rooms referred to in the EIA. He added that the hotel component will cover some 262,000 square feet, with that and the project’s commercial core - the office, retail and restaurant space, together with amenities - to be constructed in the first phase.
The Venetian Village’s second phase will involve “private gated” residential real estate located towards its southern and eastern boundaries, and the EIA suggested this will include 76 duplex units; 33 single family lots; and a community park. Mr Watson added that Brickell was presently eyeing “about 500” residential units that will be spread over 45 acres.
A traffic impact assessment (see other article on Page 1B) that accompanies the EIA indicated that Mr Bastian and Brickell had been hoping to start construction on Venetian Village as far back as 2020. However, Mr Watson confirmed that this timeline had been delayed due to the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw multiple lockdowns and other restrictions imposed that year through to late 2021.
The development, which is effectively an expansion of Brickell’s existing Venetian West project as well as a function of its existing landholdings, has also been driven by the continued business and population migration to western New Providence away from Nassau’s increasingly urban environment. Additional office and retail space, as well as residential real estate options, are increasingly required to meet this demand.
“The population of New Providence rose by 16.9 percent from census 2000 to 2010, and is projected to continue to increase through 2040. Consequently, development continues a westward migration from Nassau to accommodate a rising population,” the EIA added.
“It’s basically a six-year build-out starting this year, 2023,” Mr Watson told Tribune Business. “Things are in motion. They have been for a couple of months. There would have been, for example, a gas station that is going to be part of the marketplace, that hearing [public consultation] was done several months ago. That’s an indication that things are in motion with various permits, and plans and public consultations....
“The vision is to certainly increase the investment flow into The Bahamas, the job creation market, as there’s increasing demand for a certain level of accommodation and entertainment. That’s part of the vision to make this investment over a six-year period. It’s also putting investment into the tourism industry.”
Mr Watson said Venetian Village’s close proximity to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), and the number of international financial services providers and law firms now based in western New Providence, would likely make the condo hotel attractive to business as well as leisure travellers.
“Persons who would be coming here for business, that would be an ideal location for them to stay,” he told this newspaper. “Persons coming here for leisure, that’s an ideal location for them to stay. In addition to that, we will certainly be looking for some connection to beach amenities. We’re also looking at that as part of the master plan development to avoid it being an ad hoc approach.”
Beach access and amenities are a critical part of the tourism offering in The Bahamas, but the Venetian Village will be a land-locked location once constructed. The condo hotel’s height will be limited to two to three stories, in keeping with the area’s restrictions, due to the proximity of LPIA
Asked how many jobs will be generated by the project, Mr Watson said “a handful of contractors” would be hired. “With regard to construction jobs, we’re looking at over 300 directly employed, and indirectly, over 100,” he added. “Of course there’s a ripple effect with induced employment of 200 in terms of how it impacts induced work in the economy. And you’re probably looking at over 500 full-time, ongoing” once the Venetian Village achieves full construction completion.
Besides a gas station, which will have a charging station for electric vehicles and be located just yards from the existing Shell location at Old Fort Bay Town Centre, the two separated by just the access road, the Venetian Village master plan included in the EIA also features proposed locations for a bank and grocery store. They, too, will be in close proximity to existing rivals Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Solomon’s Fresh Market.
Meanwhile, affirming that Venetian West’s infrastructure was built with one eye on future development, Mr Watson said: “It’s a master plan that has been thought out for many years. In fact, when we had the Venetian West development, from those early days a significant infrastructure investment would have been placed. That was done in such a way as to create connectivity to the infrastructure for this development.”
He indicated that Brickell’s plans for Venetian Village have been scaled down and revised in recent years. The master plan shown in the EIA is much different from that contained in the traffic impact assessment, which was conducted back in 2019. The latter shows a much larger three-phase development that also covers land at the rear of Venetian West, and includes amenities such as an Island Luck web shop. These features are not included in the EIA plans.
Asked how much demand Brickell has received from potential residential buyers and commercial tenants, Mr Watson replied: “We’re seeing very strong interest in terms of pre-engaging persons. Certain businesses, it’s essential to pre-engage them because of their design requirements. You don’t want to retrofit after the fact, having to alter the boutique to accommodate a certain tenant.
“Certain tenants’ requirements are being incorporated in the plans upfront. It makes this a very efficient process. Pre-selling is taking place on the commercial side. We have about seven units under reservation agreements.” The total commercial space available, including retail, office and restaurant, is 72,000 square feet.
#The Venetian Village EIA said the project will rely on renewable energies to minimise its carbon footprint. “Initial discussions with Bahamas Power & Light (BPL_ indicate load availability. It is anticipated that retail units, street lighting and residential units will incorporate solar power,” the report said.
“It is the developer’s intention to reduce their reliance on the national power grid system. All properties shall be fitted with Monocrystalline solar panels with the performance of these units ranging from 18 percent to 22 percent per dwelling, retail units and hotel area.
“All residential units shall be fitted with propane water heaters; the performance of these units is 15 percent to 20 percent. By using propane water heaters, the carbon footprint per unit is reduced by 35 percent to 65 percent depending on which option is chosen. All street lighting, pathway and landscape lighting shall be solar LED. There will be no trenching or cabling – the project will be completely independent of the BPL grid with a major reduction to the project’s carbon footprint.”