Carlisle Bay – The New Investor Hot Spot
Over a mile of expansive white-sand beach gently lapped by pristine, shallow, azure waters that are home to shipwrecks and an abundance of marine life; locals enjoying daily workouts or a sea bath as the sun rises, joined later in the day by cruise ship passengers and other visitors enjoying the beach; and by nightfall the sound of pulsating music from a few longstanding beach bars and restaurants.
All this co-existing with local chattel houses, Government Headquarters and the island’s only Hilton hotel. The area which boasts of authentic architecture and rich history, stretches from the historic Garrison Savannah to the island’s capital Bridgetown has earned it the honour of being included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Nevertheless much of the beachfront land remains either vacant, or occupied by car parks, warehouses and derelict property. However, plans are now in motion and this area is being heralded as the new investor hot spot.
The elevated interest in Carlisle Bay is being guided and assisted by the detailed strategic plan developed by the Barbados Government in conjunction with a team of local and international experts. The full plan is available online on the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc’s website, but in summary it earmarks the area for a mix of hotels, restaurants and promenades that will completely transform this stretch.
The plan also focuses on the restoration of key locations of historic significance such as the Synagogue District, Bridgetown Fish Market, Cheapside Market and Bay Street frontages. Also included are the Parliament Buildings which house one of the oldest parliaments in the western world.
The government has completed this plan in tandem with overhauling the tax system and creating a much-welcomed new Planning and Development Act. The revised tax system assures developers certain duty and excise tax exemptions, each of which is of vital importance to the success of the strategic plan for the area. Barbados now has low personal income tax rates and the lowest OECD-compliant corporation taxes in the world with corporation tax slashed from 30% to just 1% for profits more than $30m. Additionally, the new Planning and Development Act which will replace the 54-year-old Town and Country Planning Act, favours development with emphasis on speed and predictability, and promises that decision times will be reduced drastically. Of note is that previous height restrictions have been revised upwards with the plan earmarking specific locations in Carlisle Bay for up to 25-storey high-rises. This has been an area of contention for some and opportunity for others.
The government has adopted these configurations for identified sites in the Carlisle Bay area to both maximise economic return and preserve windows to the sea. Investors are watching this area closely and property has been trading quickly. A few select developers are already on board with plans implemented or progressing for significant projects which are expected to provide economic uplift and regenerate the vibrancy of this historic area if implemented appropriately. Summary information on the most advanced of these projects is provided below.
Copacabana is one of the more recent additions to the area’s list of well-known party spots including Harbor Lights and The Boatyard. Just over a year ago, Virgin Holidays, Copacabana and the Sun Group partnered to open the world’s first-ever Virgin Holidays Departure Beach Lounge. Virgin travellers can now enjoy beach check-ins and spend the last few hours of their vacation on the beach in Carlisle Bay soaking up the last few rays of sunshine. This recent initiative by a world-renowned brand like Virgin highlights the attractiveness of this area.
The most advanced of the new projects planned for this area is the much talked about Hyatt Ziva Barbados which will be located on approximately 3.6 acres of beachfront close to the northern end of Carlisle Bay. This project is well advanced with plans of breaking ground in 2020 and completion targeted for 2022. Designs continue to be refined but the resort is estimated to have up to 380-rooms and 40 Hyatt-branded residential condominiums along with several world-class dining options such as a signature restaurant, poolside bar and grill, and a market-style café. Other hotel features will include a full-service spa, a fitness centre, outdoor pool, kids’ club, beach activities, and meeting and event space. The project is also working to include some of the island’s first over-sea accommodation, a concept which has only been completed once before.
A partnership between Vision Developments Inc., headed up by local developer Mark Maloney and Hyatt, this project is estimated to cost US$175 million to complete, providing 2,500 direct jobs during construction. A further 1,500 jobs are expected to be created when the hotel goes into full operation, with the hotel contributing an estimated US$70 million per annum to Barbados’ gross domestic product (GDP). These numbers are of course significant to the island’s economy.
The Savoy project is also starting to take shape though not quite as advanced as the Hyatt. This project sits on close to three acres of land and includes the “Old Eye Hospital” and the car park to the north of the hospital. Preliminary plans for this project were submitted to planning in 2019 and are awaiting feedback on refinements which may be required. Plans include a 10-storey building housing retail on the ground floor with approximately 48 two-bedroom condominiums on the upper levels as well as ample underground and ground level parking. The “Old Eye Hospital” building will be carefully restored for use as offices and the jetty will be reconstructed with a fine dining restaurant at its seaward end. Allan Kinch, a local real estate investor, is driving this project and would like to see it break ground in 2021 once the final required studies are completed. The project is expected to take approximately two years to complete.
The Pierhead project is also taking shape. Sitting on 1.86 acres of land, it includes the buildings which run along the Careenage, starting at Bridge House and continuing along the wharf to the Screw Dock leading to the stunning northern end of Carlisle Bay beach. Current plans for the area include a mix of food and beverage, retail and assorted services on the lower levels of the buildings with office space and apartments on the higher floors. There is also the potential to add a signature hotel in the area as well. The architectural heritage of existing buildings will be reflected at their existing levels with a more modern appeal displayed at the levels above.
The developers are working towards a plan that will be submitted for approval in early 2020 and the following construction will be carried out in stages. Social studies and geotechnical works are currently underway and will guide the development team towards the final designs and usage mix. The developers have expressed that input from the community will be vital to the success of this project. As with the other projects, the addition of green space, improved traffic flow and enhancing public beach access will be integral to the development plan. Neville Isdell, former chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola company is spearheading this project.
Other locations along this stretch to watch include Carlisle House and the bordering car park and warehouse areas, and The Savannah Hotel which was recently offered for sale with the option to purchase approx. 2.5 acres of seaside land adjacent to the hotel. The offer window is now closed, and several bids are being reviewed.
The wheels are definitely in motion to transform Carlisle Bay into a world-class resort destination in the coming years providing economic uplift and regenerating the vibrancy of this historic area if implemented appropriately.