The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has given Canadian investors, PACE Developments a further three years to complete the first phase of Black Sands Resort, at Peter’s Hope, which should have been built by July 2018.
Responding to a question in Parliament, on Thursday, Minister of Tourism Carlos James said rising cost and supply chain issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war were among challenges that the investors face.
However, at the ground breaking ceremony in February 2017, the investors told iWitness News that they only had half of the EC$60 million that the resort was expected to cost to construct.
Gonsalves’ government sold 36 acres of land in the former agricultural estate to PACE for EC$7 million for the construction of the resort.
As part of the deal, the investor had to construct the resort within a specified period of time or lose their alien land holder’s permit.
However, in April, Prime Minister Gonsalves said his government had received a formal application “for an extension of the timelines for them to complete, first of all, the first 50 rooms, which is the 10 blocks which have there”.
Gonsalves said the new timeline “as I recall the time later this year, early next year.
At Thursday’s meeting of Parliament, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, in a question for oral answer, said that years after work started and despite repeated assurances from the minister regarding its progress, the Black Sands Hotel project at Peter’s Hope is still not complete.
Friday asked the tourism minister to state the efforts that have been taken to ensure the completion of the project, and when the project would be completed?
In his response, James noted that the project is totally funded by the Canada-based investor.
“And there are no cash outlays from the government and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the construction of the facility,” the tourism minister said.
He said the government shares the concerns reflected in the question regarding the pace at which the construction has been executed and has expressed this concern to the investor.
“And I want us to take into consideration the challenges globally in the construction industry, primarily due to the pandemic,” James said.
“… any right-thinking person would acknowledge that any budget put together before the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis would acknowledge that you will have to go back to the drawing board,” James told lawmakers.
“And I think this is one of the challenges which affected most of the tourism construction that started pre-pandemic and are incomplete. And this is no exception to the project at Peter’s Hope for PACE development.
“So, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has given the developers an extension of three years on their alien land holding license to allow for the completion of the construction of the first phase of the resort.”
At the ground breaking ceremony in January 2017, the project was billed as a 400-room, US$60 million investment that would have resulted in 100 local jobs and would have taken 24 to 30 months to complete.
James said that the government has given the three-year extension having taken into consideration that the investors had invested millions in phase one of the project, utilising local labour and material purchased from local companies.
“We’re informed by the technical officials on the construction site that to date they’re currently constructing the road network, the infrastructure around the villas, and they are currently looking at the installation of the windows and doors which are to be installed by a local company, Kendra’s Aluminium Products,” the tourism minister said.
He said he visited the site recently “and it is quite visible that they continue to do work.
“They are employing local contractors and in fact what the officials are saying from my site visit was confirmed that they are now doing the installation of the roads, the road networks around the villas and they are waiting the prefab of the doors and windows and so on for the existing villas,” James said.
“I am hoping that with the extension of three years given on the alien landholding license … is a signal, an indication to the investors that look you have three years to really fully put your resources together and to complete phase one of this project.
“We do accept that there have been challenges, we are working closely with them to ensure that whatever support we can give them locally to alleviate some of those concerns but by and large they have recalculated what the cost of the outlay in terms of the investment on the project, and they have more or less given to the government a report that new financing and with the work that they have put in over the last few years, they’re hoping to see a completion of this project,” the minister said.
He said he was “keen and eager” to see the completion of this project to add to the potential 1,200 rooms which he said he is hoping to have in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the year 2025/2026.