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Forum redevelopment awaits plan approval

Published:Sunday | August 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Transformation of the mothballed Forum Hotel in Portmore, St Catherine, is slated to begin within a month with the construction of new housing facilities, the Bay Front Villas and Apartments, the developer said.

Approval for the renovation of the original structure and construction of an additional 18 units are, however, still pending, Gina Harrison, project manager for Bay Front, told Sunday Business.

"My goal is to go to the Real Estate Board to get (additional) approvals but we should be starting within the next 30 days. We are doing it in phases, so the first phase is the single-family units. That is the approval that we are waiting on from the Portmore Municipal Council," Harrison said in late July.

"Everything is dependent upon the approvals. It is a process. We have gone through that process and the approvals are forthcoming," she said.

The Bay Front Villas and Apartments is a project of Portmore Marina Development Limited, the company that acquired the Forum Hotel complex from Urban Development Corporation for $350 million.

If the parish council approves the development, Portmore Marina will then submit its application to the Real Estate Board, whose approval will allow the developer to enter into prepayment contracts with prospective purchasers of the residential units.

Harrison said the missing plan designs for the Forum complex has contributed to the delay in getting the project off the ground.

Forensic engineering

"For the most part, we had to do some forensic engineering because there were no existing plans. If there was any delay, that would be a factor. All the existing plans for the property were not available. Nobody had them," she said.

The developers have since redrawn the plans for the sewer, water and electrical systems in tandem with the application process, she told Sunday Business.

Portmore Marina "is of the understanding everything is coming back from the individual agencies, so that the town planner can say everything is in place", Harrison said.

Bay Front will feature two gated communities and a marina. Portmore Marina will develop the villa segment first, then transform the 10-storey tower into apartments.

Bay Front Villas will incorporate 75 two- and three-bedroom single-family homes on their own lots. The existing 57 shell units on the site will be renovated as two-bedroom, two-bathroom units, Harrison said.

Another 18 three-bedroom units will be constructed on the property, which has 80 lots. The remaining lots will be used as recreational areas and as green spaces for the development.

The hotel tower will be converted to about 120 apartments with a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Harrison said the final mix will be determined by market research.

Cash investments, loans

The project is being financed by cash investments of the owners as well as loans from an unnamed financial institution, Harrison said, noting that Portmore Marina would no longer be obtaining its financing from JMMB Merchant Bank, as previously indicated.

"In terms of how we are moving forward, the property was purchased with cash, so we didn't need any money to finance that. In terms of the actual project, we will be getting some interim construction financing," she said.

"We have an agreement in principle as to where we are getting the financing but I don't want to call any names," she said.

Portmore Marina cannot make its application to the Real Estate Board without the requisite financing being in place, she said.