New Development

Space, Style and Sophistication

somerset_elevationThe Somerset on Grace Bay
Story by Kathy Borsuk
Artwork by The Baltimore Design Group

Although they had an ocean between them, the sophisticated elite that settled in the sprawling penthouses of New York’s Upper East Side and the wealthy British Colonial travelers of yesteryear shared a common appreciation of elegance as they lived and traveled in style.

Interestingly, The Somerset on Grace Bay — among Providenciales’ most upscale new beachfront developments– is the dual effort of a Manhattan-centered developer and a Turks & Caicos-based team. And in both concept and design, The Somerset reflects a unique blend of cosmopolitan elegance and a comfortable tropical lifestyle . . . literally the best of both worlds.

Well-spaced over a 4.6 acre site, with nearly 300 feet of beachfront on Grace Bay, The Somerset places a premium on privacy and space. In fact, the 16 condominium units in the four oceanfront buildings are (properly) referred to as Estate Homes. With only one residence per floor, each spans 3,500 to 4,600 square feet, with the top floor, two-story penthouses offering over 5,200 square feet of magnificent living space. Allan Rauw, a partner in the project, describes their appeal, “We perceived a need for spacious, elegant and private villa-type beachfront homes in the heart of Grace Bay. They appeal to people who want to establish a second residence here, or simply enjoy vacationing in a home-away-from-home.”

somerset_exteriorBecause each residence in the oceanfront Carlyle, Flintwick, Dundee and Welwyn buildings occupies the entire floor, residents will enjoy unobstructed vistas of the mesmerizing turquoise ocean just steps from their door. Private terraces on four sides expand the sense of limitless space and promise the whisper of sea breezes in every room.

Complementing The Somerset’s cosmopolitan style of architecture, interiors echo its grandeur. Accessed by private elevators, Estate Home penthouses feature a central entrance foyer that leads to a high-ceilinged Great Room with walls of wood-trimmed windows open to 60 feet of private seaside terrace. Steps up the sweeping staircase is a balcony overlooking the living area and leading to upper-level bedrooms, of which no two share a common wall. Master bathrooms include a Jacuzzi — both indoors and outdoors on the terrace, which is also serviced by its own wet bar. Kitchens are state-of-the art, with built-in china cabinets and wood-fronted refrigerator/freezers and are lit by elegant chandeliers. Peruvian hardwood flooring, wood moldings, marble countertops, hand-forged iron railings, pre-wired audio systems and a premier level of appliances, fixtures and finishing detail make The Somerset among the most luxurious residences on Providenciales.

the_villas_buildingJust behind the Estate Homes is Stirling House, a larger building housing 24 one to three bedroom, ocean view condominium residences. With combined interiors and terraces ranging in size from 1,500 to 2,600 square feet, these stylish condo units also offer a generous amount of living space. Elegant penthouses, with roof top terraces, duplicate the charming tower features of those in the Estate Homes. Beyond the reception fountain and croquet lawn, ten English Cottages offer a third option for a Somerset lifestyle. These two-story, 2,600 square foot townhomes boast private gardens fashioned after the tranquility of the English countryside, while just steps from Grace Bay Beach.

With a gated entrance, enclosed parking, private walkways and lush tropical landscaping, The Somerset property serves as a private retreat for its owners and guests. The site itself is well-situated, tucked between The Palms upscale condominium development and Rotary Park on a tranquil, and especially wide and gently sloping stretch of Grace Bay Beach’s 13-mile splendor.

A focal point of The Somerset’s grounds is a lengthy series of cascading pools. This unique water feature starts at Stirling House with a fountain, flowing to a long, controlled current pool for lap swimming and on to a huge, patio-lined “edgeless” pool ending in several waterfalls at the beach’s edge.

Although primarily designed as a residential property, The Somerset will offer owners and guests all the amenities of resort living. The elegant, fountain-fronted reception area is also suitable for private parties and will include a concierge to address every need, such as excursion planning, dining reservations and babysitting. Plans also include an on-site gourmet restaurant, beachfront cabana bar and grill, world-class spa, fitness center . . . and even an English-style rose garden.

A visit to The Somerset’s magnificent showroom in Grace Bay Court reveals the exquisite quality of its decor. Designed by renowned interior designer Keith Baltimore, with input from the entire Somerset team, interiors reflect a sophisticated elegance evoked with a Colonial tropical theme. Owners can choose from various design and furnishing packages, including British Khaki, English Traditional and Asian Contemporary.

The Somerset development team’s unique blend of influences has resulted in a project quite unlike any other on Grace Bay. The initial concept was hatched several years ago by Allan Rauw, a commercial developer from western Canada who has lived on Providenciales for seven years. He acquired the site and partnered with Antonio Dallamano, who represents Horton Realty, a company with an excellent reputation for turn-key project management by working in conjunction with Projetech Construction Management and Finishing Touches interior design. When Alan Sackman came on board as a major shareholder, The Somerset was set in motion. Sackman had long been familiar with the Islands and with a 40 year history of residential development in Manhattan, the founder of New York-based Sackman Enterprises recognized the need for larger units on Grace Bay that would appeal to people whose lifestyle includes villa living. Sackman’s daughter, Allyson Nick, took a special interest in the project and the family brought in New York-based Rosenberg Kolb Architects and Keith Baltimore to refine existing ideas to reflect a sense of style and elegance so boldly emanating from The Somerset’s commitment.

Plans are for Projetech to start construction in Spring, 2003, with local architectural firm Rothermel Cooke Smith preparing the working drawings and supervising building. Initial efforts will focus on the four beachfront buildings, with the entire project expected to be completed in three years time. Horton Realty, led by Walter Gardiner, is using its extensive world-wide network to market the project, with a number of residences already purchased at pre-construction prices. The Somerset will also offer resort management and a rental program for owners.

With space on Grace Bay Beach rapidly dwindling, The Somerset team believe their project represents a rare opportunity to secure a large, residential home overlooking its pristine shores.

A Sequel To Success

The Villas at Grace Bay Club
By Kathy Borsuk
Photo by Michael Grimm
Rendering by Gordon Pierce

John Fair, Mark Durliat, and Jerry Landeck spent three years searching the Caribbean for the perfect property on which to expand their vision. The team of experienced developers was eventually lead to the Turks & Caicos Islands, where the exclusive Grace Bay Club was quietly being offered for sale to an elite market.

Opened in 1993 as the first small luxury hotel on Providenciales, Grace Bay Club earned a gold-plated reputation for both the beauty of its elegant property and exquisite suites and its meticulous care and handling of an international cadre of upscale guests. Besides being a long-standing affiliate of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the boutique hotel is consistently lauded in Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards as among the best in the Caribbean.

The well-established property seemed ideal to add to the team’s growing portfolio of five-star boutique resorts, which includes the new and highly acclaimed Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, already a member of Leading Hotels of the World and recently voted among the “Top 25 in the World” by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report.

Immediately following their purchase of Grace Bay Club in April 2002, the new owners began extensive refurbishment of the decade-old resort, with the intention, Mark Durliat explains, of sending a clear message. “We wanted to let our many repeat guests know that we had a strong interest in improving their experience and we wanted the staff to enjoy a better work environment. We didn’t want to come in and trade on the property’s good name without making our own investment in enhancing it.”

The next step was to announce the expansion of the current 21-suite hotel to include 38 ultra-luxury condominium residences: The Villas at Grace Bay Club. The move seemed a natural progression in making best use of the sprawling six acre site, which boasts an astounding 750 feet of frontage on Providenciales’ most lauded beach (and the property’s namesake). However, it was extremely important to the developers that Grace Bay Club retain the exclusive, intimate atmosphere that led to its success. “As a result,” Durliat says, “we only planned for 38 villas, placed in four buildings well-spaced across the site and surrounded by our trademark tropical gardens. This is a very low density project.”

Brought on board were visionary architect Gordon Pierce and his firm Resort Design Associates International, who the developers knew well for Pierce’s pioneering design role in the legendary Vail Village and Beaver Creek Village in Colorado, as well as the world-renowned Sonnenalp Hotel and Austria Haus in Vail and The Chateau at Beaver Creek, among other prominent properties around the world. They admired his passion for exemplary design, radiating timelessness and strength of character. Pierce made no less than a dozen visits to the Islands before taking on the challenge of weaving substantial new elements into a successful and much-admired property.

The Villas at Grace Bay Club reflect the distinctive Mediterranean style of the existing buildings, retaining golden stucco exteriors, russet clay tile roofing and arched open terraces surrounding each suite. With only two villas on each floor, the living experience remains intimate and exclusive. Buildings all face the glorious turquoise sea and each condominium has no fewer than three oceanfront terraces. Sea views wash into master bedrooms, each with a private terrace/sitting area, and sweep into the kitchen, dining and living rooms via expansive walls of glass and disappearing sliding doors. Designed to include all the amenities of a five-star experience, each bedroom has its own bath (with whirlpool tubs in the master), living rooms include a wet bar and unique “candle” fireplace, and kitchens sport an entertainment island and top-of-the-line appliances. The incomparable three and four bedroom penthouses take luxury a step further, enjoying the entire top floor of each building, with 80 feet of ocean frontage, two oceanfront master suites, a separate media room, 1,000 feet of terrace, an outdoor Jacuzzi and a host of other ultra-upscale amenities.

Interiors are elegant and modern, a reflection of the hotel’s renowned sophisticated taste. Owners can choose from several themes, carefully selected by interior designer Margaret Shannon. Ranging from cool and refreshing to calm and serene or hot and spicy, each palette includes extensive use of organic materials such as exotic woods, textured fabrics, stone, glass and decorative pieces that will make each suite feel like a private residence.

The developers’ vision for The Villas encompasses additional amenities to elevate the Grace Bay Club experience to a new level of perfection and pampering. Pierce’s grand design for the property includes a second dramatic beachfront pool that appears to blend seamlessly into its aqua backdrop. Nearby, a swim-up bar and casual grill will add variety to the more-formal dining available at the venerable Anacaona gourmet restaurant, also due to be expanded. Plans include a magnificent European spa and state-of-the-art fitness center to complement the existing watersports, tennis and spa facilities and a new, more centralized reception building will welcome guests.

Although still in the pre-construction phase, Durliat has already seen strong sales of The Villas condominiums, priced from $850,000 to $2,200,000 for two, three and four-bedroom suites ranging in size from 2,100 to 3,600 sq. ft. He says, “With the successful operating history of the resort as a guide, the investment is much less speculative than in an untried venture. In fact, over 1/2 of our purchasers are previous hotel guests and encompass a sophisticated international clientele.”

Anticipating that some owners will want to generate income from their units, complete rental and property management programs are provided and The Villas’ “lock-out” studio emulates a five-star hotel suite. Providenciales resort marketing guru Joe Zahm, who was brought into the project in its early stages and serves as its exclusive sales agent through Connolly Zahm Properties, explains, “Each villa includes a 525 sq. ft. ocean view studio suite with a private balcony, five-piece bath and separate entrance. This type of room is a best seller in the existing hotel and especially attractive to couples. Of course, the larger two and three bedroom suites are available for families and groups.” Marketing efforts will take advantage of Grace Bay Club’s recognized market presence and reservations services.

Construction of The Villas at Grace Bay Club is slated to begin in Summer, 2003 and will be undertaken in one phase. The hotel’s longtime Dutch manager, Martein van Wagenberg, admired for his meticulous attention to detail, has extracted promises from the developers that disruption will be kept to a minimum. Local architect John Redmond & Associates will implement architects’ plans and the local law firm of Miller Simons O’Sullivan serves as project attorneys.

Although John Fair, Mark Durliat, and Jerry Landeck have a combined total of over 50 years of experience in resort, residential and commercial development, they are especially excited to see their newest Caribbean venture get underway. Durliat explains, “We’re eager to create another unique product that will have a presence in the world.”

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South Caicos was once a major exporter of salt harvested from its extensive salinas. Award-winning Master and Craftsman Photographer James Roy of Paradise Photography ( created this vertical composition by assembling a series of six images captured by a high-definition drone which was a half a mile away from his position.

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