Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Smith Warner International Limited, the engineering company commissioned by the Fiesta resort group, has been given the green light by the environmental planning authority to reconstruct areas of the Hanover foreshore into bathing beaches.
Dimitris Kosvogiannis, the country manager for Fiesta, said Wednesday the Smith Warner job is a prelude to the resort's plans to add another 805 rooms.
Fiesta Jamaica currently operates the Grand Palladium and Lady Hamilton with 390 junior suites, 78 suites and 48 villa suites; and the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort & Spa which has 540 suites on beachfront property at Point in Hanover.
Kosvogiannis, speaking by telephone from Spain where the hotel chain has corporate offices, said Smith Warner will spend the rest of the year working with experts in the United Kingdom to construct a physical model of the project to scale and reviewing this prior to the start of bushing and land reclamation in January 2013.
"The model will be developed in a laboratory. It will ensure a smooth transition from planning to construction," the manager noted. The cost of the subproject was not disclosed.
However, the full project, which includes plans for a casino, could rise above US$300 million according to previous disclosures.
The Grand Palladium Resort sits on the eastern side of Lucea Harbour. In addition to the 805 new rooms, its expansion plan includes construction of two more pocket beaches and a boardwalk connecting the existing cove to the new beach areas.
Attempts to speak directly with Dr David Smith of Smith Warner were not successful. But, the engineering report housed on NEPA's website notes that work being proposed for a natural beach is within a cove at the southern end of the property.
"Currently, a narrow beach exists for each of these areas, but the foreshore is quite rocky and/or covered with seagrass. The challenge for creating a proper swimming beach at each of these locations will be to have a wider and deeper beach, coupled with a sandy foreshore that would allow guests to walk out and swim," the report states.
Kosvogiannis notes that the project was signed off on by a the technical committee comprising members of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) and other agencies earlier this month.
"Fiesta will unequivocally abide by any rules and regulations. We have approval," the Fiesta executive said.
Kosvogiannis said the NEPA-required Environmental Impact Assessment was presented in local meetings two times at the request of the authorities, who he gave high marks for responsiveness to an investment proposal.
The next step will be the application to the local parish council for building approval for the new rooms, on which Fiesta hopes to start construction by March 2013, and complete the project and open the new wing more than two years later.
"We would have a soft opening in July 2015 with an official opening for start of season in December 2015," Kosvogiannis said.
On Wednesday, Natalie Fearon, the corporate communication manager at NEPA, said that any decision taken by the technical committee would have to be processed inhouse before any information can be provided to the public.
Minutes of the public meeting held at Rusea's High School in Lucea, record engineer David Smith as explaining that the existing beach has two pockets
"Any structure that will be put in that area must be designed to withstand the hurricane waves. At the end of a hurricane, the beach may be damaged but the structure should still be there. This was the challenge that we had in designing this project and, based on that, we developed an idea of what sort of area will be required for each guest and how much sand will be required for that area," he said.
He also noted that following investigations, it was decided that there was a need for a breakwater at the north cove and also at the south cove to protect against erosion.
"One other challenge that was given was to create a beach area in the south bay so persons can walk straight up to the north. We also put a structure in place to discharge the rainwater in such a way as to not impact the beach or the seabed," Smith said.
At the meeting, Kosvogiannis made much of the jobs to be created by the expansion, offering 99 per cent Jamaican employment.
"The project will exceed US$300 million, depending on the decision on whether to include the casino as part of the development. It will employ an average of 2,000 workers during the construction phase and 1,000 additional workers during the operations phase," the Fiesta Jamaica manager said.
"The owners of the hotel have made a commitment to only employ Jamaican staff, primarily because of what transpired during the construction of phase one. There will, however, be a very limited contingency of expatriates, who will direct the operations from an engineering and architectural point of view. The labour force will be almost entirely 99 per cent local Jamaican staff and, as such, it is a project that bears significant impact to the community and product development."
The resort currently employs 1,010 at peak occupancy and 700 off-peak.