Prime Minister Freundel Stuart all but revealed today he would give the controversial 15-storey Hyatt Centric Resort on Lower Bay Street his blessing, with construction expected to begin sometime during the first half of this year.
“I should like to say here today that in my capacity as Minister responsible for Town Planning matters, within the next seven days I expect to be in a position to give planning permission for the downtown Hyatt project, by which time all of the outstanding preconditions would have been satisfied,” Stuart this afternoon told the first Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon for 2017 at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
The project has been mired in controversy since an agreement was signed in late July by developers Mark Maloney and James Edgehill and Hyatt’s Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Development and Construction Pat McCudden.
Back then the various parties had promised that construction of the US$100 million property would begin within two months.
However, social activist David Comissiong had objected on environmental grounds, and he was joined by the National Trust, which contended the project was likely to cost Barbados its UNESCO World Heritage designation.
Just last week Comissiong reiterated his call for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment to include wide public participation, telling Barbados TODAY he would proceed with plans for legal action if no such study was held.
However, though not stating if an environmental impact assessment had been done, or if there would be town hall meetings, Stuart assured the private sector that “this permission will be subject to all the necessary conditions” to protect the interests of the wider Barbadian community.
“I fully expect, therefore, that this project will commence sometime in the first half of 2017,” he said.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy first announced in October 2014 while moving the second reading of the Tourism Development (Amendment) Bill 2014 that work would begin on the two 12-storey high rise Hyatt towers on the site of the old Harbour Police Station and Detco Motors during the first quarter of 2015.
Supporters of the project, including Maloney, have long contended that it would bring more life to Bridgetown and the surrounding areas and would become a “springboard” for more projects of its kind.
“The Hyatt Centric Resort . . . is going to be a platform for a lot of other developments in the hotel sector and for Carlisle Bay, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Barbados and will be the springboard for many more projects on the beach,” Maloney said soon after signing the agreement last July.
Stuart today said it was but one of the many tourism development schemes that have been in the pipeline that are expected to rake in just over US$1 billion and add to the island’s hotel room inventory.
Stuart said the Hyatt, along with other planned tourism related investments, would add another 2,300 rooms to the hotel stock while providing a further 14,000 direct and indirect jobs.
An upbeat Stuart said some of the other developments included The Sands, which has a completion date of May; the second phase of the Sandals Casuarina, expected to be completed at the end of November this year and the Wyndham Sam Lord’s Castle which was “on track for construction commencement in March 2017”.
The Prime Minister added that work on the Pierhead Marina was expected to commence either later this year or early next year and Sandals Beaches would likely begin later this year, while the Sugar Point project was “still being looked at and a decision is pending”.
He also pointed to other developments, including the $30 million One Republic Place in Warrens, St Michael, as well as the Ridge Middle Income Housing Development for 750 houses, stating that those projects would “bring much needed foreign and domestic investment into Barbados”.
“These along with Government’s public sector capital works programme for projects in water and sanitation upgrade, nursery schools expansion through the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, the resurfacing and upgrade of the Grantley Adams International Airport runway and the CAF [Spanish acronym for the Development Bank of Latin America] and IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] road upgrade projects, should add a definite and strong injection of foreign project financing into the local economy,” Stuart added.