Ever since government purchased the Prospect Reef Resort in 2005 with plans to convert it into a hospitality-training centre, the property has been mired in controversy and false starts as it fell further and further into disrepair.
Hurricane Irma finished the job in 2017, destroying most of the resort’s dilapidated buildings.
Now, leaders hope to jumpstart the long-delayed project by appointing a new oversight board and then issuing a request for proposals to develop the property, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said last week.
“The government’s vision is to have a branded hotel with much-needed conference facilities,” Dr. Wheatley said in response to a question from Opposition Leader Ronnie Skelton on Sept. 5 in the House of Assembly.
The government purchased the resort for $6 million in 2005, planning to turn it into a government-owned hospitality training centre. That project stalled, as did attempts in 2013 to strike a deal with the United Kingdom-based developer Sir Robert McAlpine Group to build a $100 million hotel on the property.
The next effort came in 2017, when then-Premier Dr. Orlando Smith signed a $90 million agreement with the United States-based ICA Group to finance, develop and operate two hotels, condos, town houses, a marina, a conference centre, and parking lots. But following Hurricane Irma, that deal fell through in 2019 amid recriminations between the government and the developer.
Now, the government still envisions a state-of-the-art hotel complex, and the premier said on Sept. 5 that he hopes a change in leadership will help get the project moving.
“As the term of the board membership has expired, we have commenced the process of appointing a new board, and one of its mandates will be to issue a request for proposals for the development of Prospect Reef,” he told the HOA.
Asked about timelines, Dr. Wheatley said the deadline for board candidates to apply had expired on Aug. 31, and the evaluation process had commenced.
He assured Mr. Skelton that the RFP would be the board’s first job, adding that he would like to see it issued before the end of this year.
Opposition member Myron Walwyn later asked the premier if any “local or international investors” had expressed interest in the development.
Dr. Wheatley replied that the government has not received any formal expressions since he has been in government, but he reiterated his expectation of an RFP being issued shortly.
Mr. Walwyn also inquired if any outstanding salaries were due to former workers.
The premier responded, “It is my understanding that the government paid the previous employees a severance package sometime in 2017, following the hurricanes that further destroyed the property. Notwithstanding this, I believe there is a current claim by former employees for salaries following the payment of the severance package. As this is now a legal matter, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this stage.”