The developer behind Grand Bahama’s $250m Six Senses project yesterday said he wants it to be viewed “at the top level of resort development in the world” with a construction start targeted for early 2024. Marc Weller, Weller Development’s founding partner and president, told Tribune Business the partnership behind the investment will help re-establish Grand Bahama’s brand as “the best of the best” in tandem with other investors it will help attract to the island.
Speaking after Weller Development unveiled its second Six Senses resort project in the western hemisphere, which will be located in California’s picturesque Napa Valley, Marc Weller confirmed that the Freeport venture will serve as the “prototype” to the company’s further expansion of luxury hospitality and residences in North America.
Rupert Hayward’s Blue Action Lab is functioning as the local partner and adviser to both Weller and Pegasus Capital Advisors, the $10.6bn private equity group focused on investing in sustainable projects, and the only such group accredited as a fund manager by the Green Climate Fund, on the Six Senses venture.
While conceding that the resort development, to be located at the 30-acre Barbary Beach site previously owned by Marriott, cannot solve all Freeport and Grand Bahama’s woes by itself, Mr Weller nevertheless voiced optimism that it will serve as a “catalyst” to attract similar high-end investors who, together, will transform the island for the better.
Disclosing that only environmental permits remain to be obtained, from the Department of Physical Planning (DEPP) and Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) respectively, before the project can move towards a construction start, he added that Weller was further encouraged by signs that the redevelopment and transformation of Grand Bahama International Airport into a facility able to offer the “first handshake” to visitors is moving forward.
“I think we want to make sure this project is in the conversation at the top level of resort development in the world, and certainly in the Caribbean,” Mr Weller told Tribune Business of the Six Senses project. “What we’d like it to become is the number one hotel in the world, and certainly the number one hotel in the Caribbean. We’d like Grand Bahama to host that project. Any other goal can’t be shorter than that.
“The reason we have the first Six Senses project in Grand Bahama is because it does represent the best of the best, and we think that’s where the brand of Grand Bahama needs to track… to start with a project of this magnitude and privilege. We think starting from high and going from there will be a real plus.”
Mr Weller said he first visited Freeport and Grand Bahama in 2020, having been enticed to make the trip by Mr Hayward’s description of “how incredible the island was”. Everything he was told by Sir Jack’s grandson proved “accurate”, including Grand Bahama’s “natural beauty” and the development opportunity.
And the warm reception from Grand Bahamians proved a further attraction, Mr Weller revealing he was “blown away by how optimistic they were about the future” and the possibilities afforded by the Six Senses development. “I just really immediately fell in love with the island, the people and the opportunity there,” he said, noting also Grand Bahama’s proximity to the US and high net worth markets such as West Palm Beach.
While unable to provide exact figures for the number of construction and full-time posts that the Six Senses project will create, the Weller chief pledged that the employment impact would be significant, as well as the effect on Grand Bahama’s economy and the Government’s tax revenues.
“There’s a special opportunity on tap, and I’m really excited to be a part of it,” he added. “There’s an opportunity to rebrand and think about Grand Bahama as a luxury destination for hotels, hospitality and dining. You’ll start to see a luxury brand take place around the conversation for Grand Bahama, and on the island, because people from other places will start to think about Grand Bahama. It helps the brand of Grand Bahama as a place to visit from the US, Europe and Canada.”