Gov’t makes Grenadian developer ‘attractive offer’ to build Marriott

Government has asked a new developer to construct a Marriott Resort and Casino here, making a “very attractive offer,” according to reports that cite company officials.

Winston Brassington

“Zublin Grenada Limited has just concluded successful discussions with the Government of Guyana over the development and construction of a Marriott Resort and Casino on a prime location in the heart of the historic centre of Georgetown,” several reports from online Grenadian news sites said yesterday.

Stabroek News contacted Head of the Privatisation Unit Winston Brassington for confirmation but he said he said he had no comment to make. Asked whether any comments would be forthcoming soon, he said “no” and hung up.

He later called Stabroek News’ office and asked what information this newspaper had and when he was told he remarked that it was “strange” but refused to confirm the information. “When we have information to relate to the press, we’ll let you know,” he said.

Zublin is based in Grenada. The company, according to its website, was established in November 2000 by the then parent company Züblin Bau AG, a large construction company from Switzerland.

Upon establishment, Zublin Grenada Ltd immediately embarked on one of Grenada’s biggest infrastructural development projects. Zublin Grenada worked with the Government of Grenada to develop and finance the island’s first cruise ship jetty and also a modern state of the art cruise ship terminal and duty free shopping complex, according to the company’s website.

Zublin had earlier this year re-applied for a Casino Licence in Grenada but amid raging debate, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas made it clear there will be no casino gambling in the island under his watch. With there being reported differences in his government on his position, a commission was set up to study the issue.

According to the reports yesterday, including one on the Barnacle Newspaper website, the Government of Guyana invited Zublin Grenada to undertake the Marriott project and has given the Zublin team three weeks to consider the offer. The report said that while in Guyana, the Zublin team met Minister of Legal Affairs Charles Ramson and Brassington. Zublin Chief Executive Officer Dick Van Dijk said he and Director Winston Whyte were very well received in Guyana, according to the report. He said the Government of Guyana has placed a “very attractive offer” to Zublin which is being seriously considered.

The meeting was reportedly held yesterday and a follow-up meeting is expected to be held on June 1.

Government had been seeking investors for the project after a first ill-fated bid collapsed amid controversy about the developers. The credentials of the developers, Adam Development and Urbahn Associates (ADUA) and the persons behind it, had been challenged during the initial attempt at the project but the government had steadfastly refused to disclose who the principals were and what in the track record of the company would recommend it for such a project. However, the New York-based developers went ahead with work, demolishing the building that formerly housed the Government Food and Drug and Analyst Depart-ment, the former Luckhoo Swimming Pool and a bond. They also levelled the area, started building up the land and diverted to another area the sewerage pipes that in the past emptied into the Atlantic in the vicinity earmarked for the development.

Local engineers had questioned the quality of the work done and some of it had to be redone. Government had first awarded the US$700,000 contract to Courtney Benn contracting services limited but withdrew it to allow the investors to address the matter.

After an announced inability to close the local Marriott hotel deal due to financial setbacks, President Bharrat Jagdeo denied in January last year that the project was dead and said the sources of capital that had been identified for the hotel deal were simply no longer there.

Exactly five months after, the Privatisation Unit invited interested investors for the project, signalling that the original ADUA arrangement had collapsed. The unit had said that the framework for the development was based on a site consisting of 6.9 acres of land situated in the north western part of Kingston bordered by the Atlantic and Demerara River, owned by the state and was cleared for the construction of a hotel, a minimum capital investment of US$20 million and a minimum of 150 rooms.

Opposition political parties had questioned the lack of transparency in the major investment. Former PNCR chairman Winston Murray had said that for the government to maintain its own integrity and that of the Kingston hotel project, it needed to put all the information on it in the public domain.

Expressing concern about the awarding of the land to a consortium of unknown investors for the construction of the hotel and casino, he had said that the project was just one glaring example of the lack of transparency, since there was bidding for the land and no one knew on what terms and conditions the property was awarded and to whom.

On its website, Zublin describes itself as an innovative, successful and experienced company investing in international infrastructure and property development. It says that in 2003, Zublin Grenada became independent from its parent company via a management buy out. Züblin Bau AG was sold to the pan-European construction company Strabag AG from Austria/Germany.

The main partners and members of the Board of Directors in Zublin Grenada are Hendrik A. van Dijk, Sükrü Evrengün, and Winston Whyte. van Dijk was born in Holland and has a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering from the Technical University in Delft; Whyte is a Grenadian and is a former government minister and Evrengün has a Masters Degree in Law from the University of Amsterdam.

According to the website, the Zublin team, combines vast international experience in development, financing and realization of large scale infrastructural and real estate projects.

The team has established an exemplary track record in the Caribbean region for excellent projects from as early as the 1990s, it says and lists several projects it has completed.

The company says it is able to ensure the cooperation of top-consultants from the USA and Europe to develop projects successfully due to the international background and vast experience of its owners/managers and efficient staff.

The firm operates offices in Grenada, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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