Economic Downturn Affecting Christophe Harbour Development

Included in the list of foreign investors that have made known just how badly their development projects have been negatively affected, is the much talked about Christophe Harbour, on the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts.

Christophe Harbour is the brainchild of Kiawah Partners, which in the mid-1970s developed 10,000-acre Kiawah Island into an exclusive resort community with more than 4,000 residential units. In 1999, Kiawah acquired the 390-acre Doonbeg golf community in Ireland, and now sees St. Kitts as its next great investment opportunity.

Phil Keb, executive vice-president of Cristophe Harbour Development Corp., said his company has spent $170 million since 2006 on land acquisition, bungalows and a beach-house restaurant as well as golf and marina development.

The 2,500-acre property encompasses six beaches and 13 miles of shoreline on the southeastern peninsula of St. Kitts.

“Our master plan has been approved for 2,000 units, a marina, multiple hotels and a golf course,” said Keb, adding that in the past three years, he’s racked up more than $55 million in lot sales.

Now, according to the company official, the global economic downturn has forced Kiawah Partners to lower its expectations for the time being.

“When the project first got started, capital was available so we started our marina and golf project,” said Keb. “We spent about $10 million doing bulk earthmoving work. When we realized that capital markets were not cooperating like we though they would, we stopped construction on the golf course, and will restart once we have demand.”

So far, Christophe Harbour has sold 47 lots. About 80 percent of those buyers are from the United States, 10 percent from Europe and the remaining 10 percent from the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

“Given the state of the market, we’ve done fairly well. It’s all about selling a lifestyle,” said Keb. “We have 25 founding members who bought real-estate. We made a commitment to them that we’d provide amenities.”

All told, said the executive, “we’re looking at new investments of $50 million for primary capital projects focused on allowing us to continue to sell real-estate. That’s the name of the game for us. We will soon announce a 125-room luxury hotel and a $5 million to $10 million co-investment along with a developer from Dubai.”

Keb said Christophe Harbour is benefitting from a unique program approved by the twin-island nation in 1984 that grants St. Kitts citizenship to anyone investing at least $400,000 in an approved local property. That’s a strong attraction for foreigners — particularly wealthy Arabs — who have difficulty entering the United States with their current passports.

“If you have a St. Kitts passport, it allows you to travel to 132 countries visa-free, so there’s strong interest in that,” said Keb. “If we’re lucky, we’ll get enough traction on this program to break ground and announce the first hotel soon.”

To help drum up support and increase sales, top executives from Christophe Harbour were recently in Russia and Dubai, making sales calls. They have also announced plans to visit England shortly.

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