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Drax Hall to market one-acre lots for upscale homes

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Having given up the chase for a casino licence, at least for now, developer Richard Salm is cutting up a portion of his property at Drax Hall, St Ann into one-acre lots to be sold for construction of family residences.

Some of the income generated from the land lots will be used to fund a large resort project for the northern end of the property, Salm told Wednesday Business.

Through his company, Drax Hall Limited, Salm had partnered with American Phillip Reynolds to mount a bid for approval to develop a casino resort, but later pulled their own bid. Salm says the Casino Royale partnership was no longer active, but that he still planned to execute the resort development without chasing after a casino licence.

"We are on our own at the moment. We don't have a partner, and we are not actively seeking one," Salm said.

Development of some 1,400 acres of land on the south side of the estate is now being undertaken through Drax Hall Development Limited. The company has applied for permission to sub-divide 214 one-acre lots, as well as sites for multi-family residential complexes, and sites for townhouses.

"We are awaiting our approvals for the residential development on the south side, which is a rather more top-market development," said the developer.

While pricing for the one-acre lots have not been finalised, Salm said they are likely to sell for about US$100,000 to US$120,000 (about J$12m to J$14m) per acre.

"These are lots for people who would like to build a nice house on a nice piece of land and have some privacy; it's for people who want more space," said Salm.

"The trend today is for selling small lots and building huge houses - we don't want to be a part of that market. I just think it's overbuilding and not ecologically friendly; it's putting profit above aesthetics," he said.

Drax Hall is willing to handle construction of homes on behalf of lot purchasers, at their request, at a cost of about US$80 (J$9,300) per square foot, said the developer.

The company has sold 130 acres of land on the seaside of the Drax Hall property to Kemtek for the development of middle income housing, and Salm says he plans to use the other 200 acres in that area of the property for the integrated resort development, including golf course, the same site that would have housed the casino resort.

financial commitments

That plan included a casino, hotel, 16 acres for a shopping complex, villa lots, middle-income housing, a golf course and marina. Salm and Reynolds had said at their bid application that they had up to US$500 million of commitments for financing of the development.

"My plans are to go ahead with the resort development ... when the time is right we will make another application for a casino licence. We have approvals, the subdivision approvals for the various facilities, including the golf course and townhouse apartments." Building approvals are outstanding.

"All we need to do is put our financing package together and then we can get started," he said, adding that he was looking to fund managers rather than the bank's to back the venture.

"If we do the whole thing as originally envisaged for the casino application, it would run about US$750 million, but that includes the casino, 2,000-room hotel, shopping centre, villas, apartments townhouses, retirement homes, the whole nine yards, which was incorporated in our master plan," the developer said.

Drax Hall estate was founded in 1669 by William Drax, who came to Jamaica from Barbados. The property was later purchased by the Sewell family, and eventually fell into the hands of the Salm family.

Shareholding in Drax Hall is held by a Cayman Islands corporation, which itself is owned by the Salm family, Salm said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com