New Development

An Experience In Pleasure

palmdrawThe Palms Grand Resort & Spa
By Kathy Borsuk

“In these times, upmarket condominium purchasers are looking beyond the brick and mortar and core amenities. Instead, their interest is more comprehensive . . . they ask ‘what will I experience while I’m there?'”
Developer Stan Hartling’s words reflect the philosophy by which The Palms Grand Resort and Spa is guided. “With this project, we really focused on the guest experience side of the resort from the very beginning. The intense design process went on for over a year and is continuing today as we constantly refine the details. I believe this will make a difference I’ll be proud of: a sense of property not easily recreated.”

It all began with choice of location: 450 feet of the finest beachfront on esteemed Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales. Hartling had his sights set on the property for years, intrigued by its natural sunset views and more-private location, well removed from large-scale hotel properties.

The next step was a carefully designed master plan, a cooperative effort between architects Nichols Brosch Sandoval & Associates; landscape architects Bradshaw, Gill & Associates; Hartling and partner Mervin Cox, of COXCO Construction, and Cox’s colleague Marc Johnson. Each component of the plan had to meet the demands of the various professionals involved, while contributing to an overall atmosphere of majestic exclusivity, from The Palms’ sugary sand border to its grand entrance from Grace Bay Road.

A palm-lined promenade draws views across the gracious fountain courtyard and British Colonial-era Manor House, the open-air central lobby and welcoming point for all guests. Spaced around the fountain courtyard are the gourmet restaurant, luxury spa and small boutiques, ensuring the perfect venue for after-dinner strolls.

palmspaA buffering layer of carriage houses (for private enclosed parking) flank the Manor House, while its peaceful courtyard foyer with wall fountain serves as an entrance to the private residences.

Suites, ranging in size and floor plan to suit many tastes, are enclosed in five, five-story buildings facing the beach. Reflecting an old Colonial, West Indies style, all boast primary ocean views from every direction via expansive terraces, whether set beside the dune’s edge or with the accent of the interior courtyard gardens.

The centerpiece oceanfront courtyard encloses a fabulous free form pool (with secluded alcoves and “infinity edge” to blend naturally into the turquoise bay) and is enhanced with lush landscaping and well designed paths to ensure that privacy is not comprised. Beach level suites have semi-private outdoor terraces that extend into the garden area, allowing the twin comforts of seclusion and enjoyment of the sparkling sunshine and revitalizing sea breezes. A cozy, dune-front cabana bar promises cool refuge and relaxed beachfront dining without impacting views.

Although construction has been underway for over four months, targeting a December 2004 opening, The Palms refinements continue. Paul Duesing, of Paul Duesing Partners, a specialist in “leisure and lifestyle design” for high-end properties, is now part of the team. Hartling was overwhelmed by the excellence of Duesing’s work on such projects as the Las Ventanas luxury hotel in Cabo San Lucas (its interiors rated #1 by Conde Nast magazine) and the Royal Livingstone hotel in Victoria Falls, Zambia (profiled in the November 2002 Architectural Digest). He knew that Duesing’s total immersion in detail was tailor-made for what he had in mind for The Palms. Hartling explains, “When creating spaces, Paul takes everything a step beyond the ordinary. He takes into account mood, atmosphere, time of day . . . and pulls all the elements together to produce a space dedicated to total enjoyment.”

Duesing says that as part of his “big picture” approach, he will be both exaggerating things that are beautiful about the Turks & Caicos and bringing to life elements of the Colonial era to appeal to guests’ most romantic notions. Enthralled by the amazing colors of the sea, Duesing will complement the stunning terrace views that dominate the suites’ Great Rooms with light, white wall treatments and fabrics and contrasting mahogany furniture, with accents of coral stone. Net-enclosed canopy beds and the mellow glow of gas lanterns, with antique mirrors in the doors, will bring to life an era of pleasure. Typical shower stalls are replaced by “liquid temples”: an entire “wet room” complete with chandelier, marble benches, dual showerheads and a hand-held spray. And Duesing says that while kitchens will be outfitted to satisfy the most discriminating cook, they will be readily disguised when not in use, appearing as an entertainment bar around which guests can cluster. For accent pieces, Duesing and his associates are busy sourcing Colonial-era paraphernalia, along with postcards and photographs of the Islands’ yesteryear.

The Palms will have a state of the art spa.Duesing is also creating a one-of-a-kind ambience for the spa, which Hartling and his partners see as becoming a beacon for the property, and a renowned entity in its own right. He says, “We want the spa to be a unique experience and internationally acclaimed . . . right out there with all the newest and most innovative techniques. Right now, we’re planning it to cover over 8,000 square feet, with the possibility of acquiring another plot of land to make it even larger.”

The spa will be divided into bungalow-style treatment rooms including spacious couples’ suites with private pools. The romantic atmosphere will be accentuated with floating pavilions cantilevered over a reflecting pond, the perfect site for nighttime pleasures. Among the variety of cutting-edge treatments available will be underwater massage and chromotherapy, in which the use of color is employed for relaxation.

The on-site restaurant will be distinctive, as well. Not satisfied with anything that could be classified as typical, Hartling and his colleagues are currently searching the globe to find the perfect gourmet restaurateur who is willing to take on the challenge and enter into a joint venture. This is one of Hartling’s successful business philosophies. He says, “I prefer to break a property down into microgroups, each managed by the key stakeholders because the drive and enthusiasm owners bring to a venture is unmatched.”

As developer of the highly successful Sands on Grace Bay Resort (1/2 mile west of The Palms site), Hartling earned the distinction of delivering a high quality product, on schedule, and with the pleasure of lots of personal interaction. As testimonial, to date over 20% of The Sands owners have upgraded (at about twice the price!) into The Palms project. Hartling beams, “It’s exciting that they have this sort of confidence and satisfaction in us. I’m also pleased to report that The Sands resales didn’t stay on the market for long.” In this the first year of steady marketing, The Palms sales exceed $40 million, with over 60% of the units sold at an average price of $1.1 million.

What makes an investment in The Palms so attractive? Hartling believes that because many of today’s purchasers are placing capital (rather than spending discretionary income) in the real estate market, the stature of the property and how it is promoted are of prime importance. Besides the sheer excitement of seeing their vacation home acclaimed in an elite travel magazine or earning the distinction of an award, this exposure enhances the growth potential of the investment. The care that is being taken at The Palms to create a unique and superior “experience” from the start bodes well for the future.

Hartling explains that his upscale clientele include many self-made entrepreneurs who feel good about having a productive asset. “As long as they have confidence in management, it’s in their nature to rent out their unit when they’re not using it.” As a result, a comprehensive rental program was built into The Palms plans from the beginning, modeled on that of The Sands. All suites include studio lockout options, each with its own kitchenette and terrace.

Hartling and partner Mervyn Cox are proud to be part of the cutting edge of development that they feel characterizes Providenciales these days. They explain, “Developments here are as advanced as anywhere else in the world. We’re not just following the leaders . . . we’re setting the precedent and the market is responding.”

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The Isle of West Caicos

By Kathy Borsuk
Photos by Horton Realty

It was a perfect day for my first helicopter ride. The wind was calm, the sky was clear and the low angle of the autumn sunlight gave everything a rich, burnished glow. I was on my way to the isle of West Caicos.

The Isle of West CaicosWe sped across the six miles of shallow banks separating Providenciales from the isle, the water crystal clear, with a lime-green tinge. Seen as a shadowy hump on the horizon from Providenciales’ south shore, by air West Caicos appears as the ultimate mirage: a pristine, isolated island, its velvety green landmass ringed with a corona of brilliant beaches and sparkling seas which seemed to glow in luminescent tones somewhere between turquoise and heavenly blue.

West Caicos CoveOur bird’s-eye view revealed all of West Caicos’ charms: long stretches of pearly sand dunes along some shores, craggy limestone creating secluded coves in other areas. Best known as the site for premiere scuba diving and fishing, I learned that the unique color of the ocean here was an indication of depth along the sheer wall drop-off just off the western shore.

Inland, we hovered over vast Lake Catherine, home to flocks of flamingos and two bottomless blue holes. We spied on several ponds fed by “boiling springs,” subterranean tunnels to the sea. Dun-colored, tidal-fed salinas were also part of the landscape, dominated by endless acres of lush tropical “bush” and rock-crested ridges. One highlight of the magical trip was the discovery of a herd of hungry bonefish patrolling a shallow flat.

We saw evidence of West Caicos’ somewhat-odd human history, as well. The rocky inlet of Delvin Cove once sheltered pirates waiting to loot ships wrecked on nearby Molasses Reef. Abandoned railroad tracks splicing the isle’s midsection, rough donkey trails, toppled stone buildings and rusting tractors recollect 19th century salt and sisal enterprises at Yankee Town, while the hulls of futuristic pods represent a more recent attempt at fish farming. The existing airstrip was the start of a 1970s plan for an oil refinery.

Mans’ latest footprint was also apparent: the new harbour created by dredging of a natural inlet on the isle’s northwest edge. It is the first step towards the development of the Isle of West Caicos . . . and the reason I was visiting.

Like many island residents, I had heard rumors about the new project and was concerned about the fate of one of the country’s few remaining pristine enclaves. After spending time with the development team and poring over their plans, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Turks & Caicos” Crown Jewel is in good hands.

For starters, the “Isle of West Caicos” development team is entirely made up of Belongers and a resident of the Turks & Caicos Islands, all folks who care deeply that the project enhances rather than exploits the isle’s natural treasures. Plans focus on low-density, top-of-the-market development with minimum impact to the environment. Another encouraging note is that the team is proceeding in a careful, deliberate manner, with years of environmental impact and land usage studies preceding construction. And as the first of its kind joint venture with the Turks & Caicos government, the project will benefit the country and its people. With previous suitors for West Caicos proposing such schemes as toxic waste disposal and aragonite mining, the lovely isle seems to have ended up in a love match.

The Vision
Partner David Hartshorn says, “It’s under everyone’s skin to live on a tropical island with no hassles,” and this thought has shaped plans for the Isle of West Caicos. As a small and very exclusive island retreat, the infrastructure, architecture and services are all designed to ensure a life of luxury and convenience, while at the same time enhancing and respecting the isle’s natural beauty.

The centerpiece is the new ten acre harbour, its 12 foot draft welcoming entry and dockage by ocean-going mega-yachts and sailboats alike. The surrounding Harbour Town, artfully designed to recreate the ambience of the 18th century, will include a full service marina and waterfront village complete with small shops, cafes and cottage-style condominium/townhomes. Discreetly positioned nearby will be a commercial dock that will serve as a port-of-entry for direct customs clearance of supplies. Regular ferry service via dual-powered catamaran for the 25 minute ride from Providenciales will arrive at the Harbour Town reception area. Additional access to the isle will be by small plane or helicopter via the renovated airstrip, also a certified port of entry into the Turks & Caicos.

A 125 room, five-star hotel is slated to be built on the beach at Logwood Point, east of Harbour Town. At press time, negotiations were underway with the hoteliers, but the Logwood team was able to divulge, “They plan on turning it into one of the very top accommodations in the world.” Its low-key architecture will mirror Colonial features of days past, and include a number of beachfront bungalows, which will be available for purchase.

Residential settlements make up the remainder of the developable land, divided into three separate coastal communities with about 100 lots ranging in size from one to three acres. All areas will be connected with roadways and paths for electric carts, in some cases utilizing the original roadbeds cut decades ago. Underground power, water, television and telephone connections will be provided to each site.

Although residents are encouraged to personalize homes to their pleasure, specific building envelopes are identified for each lot to best position homes to the topography. Building heights and setbacks are guided to preserve the feeling of open space and while the design theme, “18th century Caribbean,” is open to French, English and Spanish influences, final plans will require approval by the project architect.

The Visionaries
David Hartshorn came to Providenciales in 1981 with Johnston International to build the airport. Now running his own construction management company, Projetech, he says he has always dreamed of living on West Caicos. Over six years ago, he asked friend Earl “Super C” Ingham to inquire with government about securing land on the isle. Negotiations ensued and, over time, a development team assembled, with representation from many of the islands.

Besides Grand Turk native “Super C” (a painting contractor), the team includes Projetech construction manager Desmond Quant (from Grand Turk), builder Douglas Misick (from North Caicos), and Walkin Marine entrepreneur Sherlock Walkin (from Providenciales). Two years into the project, they were joined by American Alan Lisenby, a life-long builder/developer who has lived and invested in the TCI since 1983, and whose influence, the team says, “was the impetus to really get the ball rolling.”

As Logwood Development Co. Ltd. (named after the cargo that so often drifted ashore West Caicos following shipwrecks), the team struck a deal. TCI government would receive 25% of gross land sales (at market value), along with the standard 7% stamp duty on such transactions. Little was asked in return, as Logwood would finance and build all necessary infrastructure. Land usage plans specified that no more than 12% of the 5,500 acre isle be developed, including 150 acres reserved for exclusive Belonger development, and that the remaining land be set aside as a nature preserve.

Hartshorn recalls, “From day one, the tone was set that development be low density, low impact and environmentally friendly. In fact, we anticipate that realistically, there will never be more than 1,000 people living on West Caicos at any given time.” The skilled land planning company of Edward D. Stone Associates (EDSA) was brought in to work with locally based Halltech on extensive environmental impact/land usage studies that took place over a period of two years, costing over $1 million. At the same time, the Architectural Design Group began preliminary sketches. There was plenty of in-house expertise in the areas of building design, construction services, maintenance and rental management, and marine services. Horton Real Estate, led by Belonger Walter Gardiner, took on marketing responsibilities, while the local firms of Misick & Stanbrook and KPMG were assigned to cover legal and accounting matters, respectively.

Refining the Vision
As we buzzed over West Caicos in the project’s private helicopter, Alan Lisenby explained that there will be no lack of amenities or activities on the Isle of West Caicos. Besides the obvious distractions of swimming, snorkeling, sunning, diving and fishing (deep-sea, reef and bone . . . I could see Alan’s hands itching for a fly rod when we passed the school of bonefish), residents and visitors can also enjoy beachcombing, land sailing on the salinas, pony trekking to the historic sites and hidden ponds, ocean kayaking, canoeing and jogging or biking on miles of trails. Facilities will also eventually include lighted tennis courts, a freshwater swimming pool and a golf driving range.

With the utopian goal of “no accidents and no crime,” the Isle will be serviced by a round-the-clock security staff, with local monitoring of home alarms, marine radar surveillance and mobile fire-fighting equipment all available.

Residents can make use of both inter-island and offshore shopping services. Property management and maintenance plans include refuse collection, landscaping and yard service.

Vision into Reality
West Caicos HarborAfter two years of environmental impact assessment, including specialized marina hydrology studies, in November 2001, Logwood undertook what they say was the most challenging part of the project: dredging the salina to create a harbour. Due to a natural cut in the reef at the inlet, no coral was removed. A special suction dredge, likened to a giant vacuum cleaner, deposited the bottom sand directly onto the adjoining land. This state-of-the-art system, combined with turbidity nets and constant monitoring of water quality, helped keep sediment flow into the pristine ocean to a minimum. This $6 million initial step was successfully completed in less than a year.

By mid-2003, the team will move forward to start construction of selected Harbour Town buildings, and eventually the hotel and first homes. Of the nearly dozen lots already sold, all owners are eager to begin building (including the developers themselves!) However, as Alan Lisenby was quick to point out, “We’ve been very thorough and deliberate for the last four years in planning the project and we intend to use the same approach in the development phase. As we are not dependent upon pre-sales as our source of financing, we can move forward in a rapid, but orderly manner. And with only 100 lots, there’s not much to sell.”

Creating a Model Project
In all they do, the Isle of West Caicos team sees the project as an opportunity to create a model for others to follow . . . and to prove that Belonger-owned, locally funded and manned development can succeed. And rather than isolate a portion of the country from its native population, they see the development as opening up West Caicos to increased use. Walter Gardiner, sales manager at Horton Realty, explained, “With readily available transportation to West Caicos, many more Belongers and residents can enjoy the island. The fact that the historical landmarks will be protected in a Living Museum will allow more people to learn about our fascinating history.”

As well, 150 acres of prime beach and ridge land is set aside for exclusive Belonger development, both residential and commercial. Belongers will be encouraged to settle in West Caicos and the project will create many opportunities for local businesspersons to service the growing community. Finally, via government’s involvement in the project, profits will directly benefit the local economy. This is especially important because, as the team pointed out, the Isle of West Caicos is currently the most ambitious project in the Turks & Caicos Islands. All involved want it to stand as its proudest landmark.

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Gary James at Provo Pictures ( used a drone to photograph this bird’s-eye view of Dragon Cay off Middle Caicos. It perfectly captures the myriad of colors and textures that make God’s works of art in nature so captivating.

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