Caribbean luxury properties – what’s the difference?

SOUFRIÈRE, ST. LUCIA — “Buy Your Own Piece of Paradise” says the small sign that greets potential buyers who snake their way along Jalousie Drive, a private road carefully constructed between the Pitons, the lava spikes for which St. Lucia is famous.

It is the same sign that could be posted at almost any real estate development on almost any of the thousands of islands that dot the Caribbean — extolling palm trees, white sand and gorgeous sunshine. So explaining what makes St. Lucia different, especially at The Residences, a collection of 42 homes being built at Sugar Beach, is the challenge.

Owned by the British-born Roger Myers, who has a home on the island, the houses were designed by Lane Pettigrew and are expected to be finished by the end of the year. A five-star hotel on the site, now called Jalousie Plantation, is undergoing a $100 million refurbishment and will be rebranded in December as The Tides, Sugar Beach. “This place is very much about authenticity,” said Armin Asceric, sales manager of The Residences. “Our aim here is to get a real natural feel.”  

Buyers will have access to facilities and services at the renovated Jalousie Plantation, which is managed by the Viceroy Hotel Group of Los Angeles, a company known for properties like the Viceroy hotels in Santa Monica, California, and Miami. In addition to the spa, the hotel will have two white-sand beaches, three new restaurants, four bars and a scuba center. There is a 24-hour butler service. Even so, are The Residences at Sugar Beach that much different from competitors like, say, the ultraluxe Jumby Bay in Antigua, a 300-acre, or 120-hectare, space that reopened in December 2009 after a $28 million sprucing up?

Like the Jumby Bay area of Antigua, St. Lucia is not overdeveloped. Both projects have alfresco showers, private infinity pools and luxurious, contemporary furnishings. And while both are private dwellings first and foremost, they also have rental options that allow owners to get around $1,500 per night or more when they are available. (Owners would retain 75 percent of the fee; 25 percent would go to the management.)  

To some degree, Mr. Asceric says, the upscale real-estate market in much of the Caribbean has been immune to the global economic downturn simply because buyers here are just so rich that dropping a few million dollars on another property will not make a big dent in their finances.  

“The tough economic climate has resulted in fewer buyers who are extremely savvy and are not prepared to accept second-rate sites without secure financing,” she said. “Many have removed their money from the stock market and the banks and see one-of-a-kind real estate as the only safe place” for it.  

Source: New York Times