Let’s dream big. Let’s put on rose-coloured glasses and project where the Barbados real estate market could be heading over the next 10 years. Here’s what the future could look like:
Barbados would have emerged from the rebalancing of the economy
Brexit would be solved
This will lead to a surge of new investment
The inventory of properties currently on the market will be sold, which will trigger new construction
Barbados will create new pockets of interest, where Barbadians and foreign investors share in the revitalisation of our prime real estate. This revitalisation will include redeveloping our cities and creating offshore islands; ushering in lifestyle changes where the trend will be to live in midrise buildings in contemporary, urban settings, accentuated by green spaces. For this to happen, Barbados would have cleaned up its entire act in terms of its infrastructure and efficiencies, catering to a rapidly growing shared community of Barbadians and foreign investors, without losing the charm for which the island is so well-known
The traditional markets will remain. But to absorb all of the new construction – which I suggest could be in much larger numbers (e.g. 2,000 new condominium units in the first five years) – we will turn to markets such as South America and Asia as prime sources of investment
The opportunity to buy property in Barbados will be buttressed by business people who want to have their companies based here for tax benefits. If order to reside here, they will need to have purchased a property
Barbados will be a hub linking South and North America, allowing major companies to feed into these two continents from Barbados
Barbados will become the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean. It will have established itself as a centre for start-up companies. This will absorb employees from our educated population, who will in turn source venture capital, become entrepreneurs and live in smart cities.
As we move towards the next 10 years, we are emerging from a low period for property sales and new construction. This turnaround will be led by significant activity – mainly in the development of high-end residences. The strength of the Barbadian real estate market has always been led by high net worth second home owners who have no reason to ride out economic uncertainty. They know what they want and see no need to postpone making decisions.
Starting now, in year one, Barbados has some of the most attractive properties currently listed for sale. The excitement of owning a home in Barbados will continue to be in the main locations of our themed resorts, centred on golf, polo and tennis, as well as marina and other beachfront areas. Just north of Sandy Lane, one investor has built a magnificent state-of-the-art great house on the beach. This ‘spec’ ultra-luxury property is on the market at US$28 million. Beachfront locations remain the first choice for ownership. Although beachfront commands steep premiums, there are still well-priced three-bedroom condominiums for sale in the US$2 million range on the beach.
Barbados is quietly positioning itself to Dream Big. Government is inviting foreign and local investors and has set the tone by announcing the first initiative. This involves a master plan for the Carlisle Bay area, stretching from Batts Rock in the north to The Garrison in the south. Carlisle Bay falls within the UNESCO World Heritage designated area, in our capital city Bridgetown, and can boast of being the island’s most beautiful stretch of beach.
Bridgetown is, unfortunately, Barbados’ neglected capital city. It is one of five Special Development Areas which provide for a package of incentives to be offered to qualified developers. Government has set the tone by presenting a futuristic plan which anchors the development at the Northern end of Carlisle Bay with a 25-storey hotel/ condominium and suggests at least one additional hotel next to The Hilton. Plans are already in place to build a new Hyatt Hotel next to the proposed 25-storey hotel in Bridgetown.
A new mega project will get underway before the end of this year to convert the entire Bridgetown Careenage waterfront into an exciting mixed-use project. It will include a branded hotel, apartments, shopping, offices, restaurants and entertainment. What is most exciting is that its plans provide for a futuristic outlook. This project plans to provide and encourage young Barbadians and other entrepreneurs to live, work and play in the city.
The revitalisation of Carlisle Bay is just the start. Bridgetown is packed with opportunities. Entire streets have been redesigned on paper, with Roebuck Street being the best example. Think New Orleans – jazz, food, entertainment and living on the same street; upstairs with small gardens at the back of these balconied homes/ businesses. The theme gets back to live, work and play once again; streetscapes with trees, benches, gas lamps and wide sidewalks with cafés spilling onto them, remembering that we are in a UNESCO World Heritage area.
Our Government is working around the clock to stabilise our economy and confidence has returned. New projects are under review and the opportunities to redevelop existing, underutilised properties far outweigh new build options. Our four waterfront towns present the best redevelopment choices and Government has prepared attractive concession packages specific to these special development areas.
Our nearby harbour provides the impetus for the next expansion. This area is all on reclaimed land – all of which has been put to good use. This suggests further reclamation, but with a twist. New plans point to the building of an island just north of the harbour and a proposal for 150 acres of new land is being completed to provide for the construction of five hotels with up to 2,000 rooms, 500 apartments, a conference facility, a marina, shopping and many other added facilities. This island will provide 5,000 jobs.
Dreaming big provides for the entire island, our other towns, our infrastructure, our institutions and our international feed of our main industry – tourism.
Barbados sits geographically perfectly to act as a hub for businesses feeding North and South America. Our education system, through university qualifications, provides a workforce looking for new horizons. Warrens, our newest town centre is earmarked to become another smart city where tech companies can centralise their facilities.
Connectivity will become more of a challenge as people move between these exciting newly redeveloped areas and one system being considered is the pod system – driverless small vehicles that move people along footpaths and are guided by onboard computers. Recharged as they await passengers in solar stations, the initial planned loop will move through Bridgetown and follow the old Constitution River through Warrens, then past the Cave Hill University Campus to the Harbour, Kensington Oval and back to the River Terminal. Once it reaches the ABC Highway, the route could be extended to include Speightstown in the north and the Grantley Adams International Airport in the south. The exciting news is that this system is already proving itself elsewhere and can justify its costs in a short time.
So, yes, Dream Big must be the future. Mr Kofi Annan said that Barbados “punches above its weight”. We need to Dream Big to maintain this advantage.