New Development

The Time Has Come: Development looms for North Caicos

pumpkin_bluff_beachBy Kathy Borsuk

For nearly the past decade, “the talk” has been that North Caicos will be the next island in the Turks & Caicos chain to attract focused development. Honestly, it was hard to imagine. North Caicos is one of the most tranquil places in the country. Covered with lush vegetation that includes fruit trees, vegetable gardens and scores of medicinal plants; dotted with mysterious ponds on which flamingos roost; lined with endless stretches of windswept beach and inhabited primarily by Islanders in small, close-knit communities, North Caicos epitomized the phrase, “Beautiful by Nature.” It was a place to visit when you wanted to hear only your own thoughts. It seemed untouched by time.

That’s why I was so surprised when Phillip Misick, general manager at Prestigious Properties and a native of the aptly named “Garden Island,” told me, “North Caicos is now the best investment in the Turks & Caicos.” His sentiments were echoed by other realtors, who explained that prices for land along the island’s shores had skyrocketed in the last 1 1/2 years and, in some cases, demand has already outstripped supply.

Pumpkin Bluff Beach, North CaicosHow did this come about? It seems a confluence of several key factors led to the formation of a critical mass, starting with the sheer lack of residential waterfront property in Providenciales and the high cost of the few remaining parcels. Misick explains, “Although residential beachfront property in North Caicos has already reached $400,000 to $1.1 million/acre, with commercial property running at $200,000 to $300,000/acre, this is still about 25 to 50% of what buyers can expect to pay on Providenciales. Stamp duty on transactions is only 3%, compared to 9.75% on Provo. Purchasing land on North Caicos was the logical next step.”

Part of the reason was its proximity to Provo: North Caicos is a short (and scenic) 20 minute boat trip from Leeward; less than 10 minutes by air from Providenciales airport. And with paved roads connecting the major settlements of Sandy Point, Whitby and Bottle Creek, power supplied via underwater cable from Provo, and worldwide telephone and Internet services available, North Caicos was poised to be discovered.

Nathan Smith, sales associate at Coldwell Banker Turks & Caicos, believes that he and a handful of other realtors played a role in the change. “In early 2002, it seemed that development on North Caicos was a long way in coming. But we started making an effort to bring buyers over to North and let them see for themselves that there were options beyond Provo. By late 2002, we saw a strong interest in the Pumpkin Bluff subdivision and things really caught on from there.”

Dee Agingu, sales executive at Horton Realty, is another realtor who believed in North Caicos, adding that the subdivisions created by developer Jim Gillette and associates encouraged her clients to feel more comfortable with making an investment there. She explains, “With paved roads, underground power and other amenities on site, these planned subdivisions made future development seem a more likely possibility and allowed buyers to feel less isolated.”

Others agree that Florida developer/builders Jim Gillette and Dale Piergiovanni, recently joined by W.C. Grimsey, played a major role in the tidal wave of interest sweeping over North Caicos. From the beginning, the group had a vision of land development that included putting amenities in place first, rather than making it a responsibility of purchasers.

Their first project, Sandcastle Estates, is located on 30 acres of beachfront property in Sandy Point, across from Parrot Cay (an exclusive hideaway for the rich and famous.) Here, Gillette, Piergiovanni, and several private investors have built large, upscale homes, with another ten due for construction over the next year. The subdivision sold out quickly, with lot prices nearly doubling from 2002 to 2003.

Pumpkin Bluff was the group’s second project and another success story. Located on the northernmost point of North Caicos, just west of the Prospect of Whitby Hotel, the project encompasses 70 acres of land with 4,500 linear feet of oceanfront, and includes paved roads and underground power. Of the 41 beachfront parcels, 50% were reserved within four weeks of going to market and all are currently sold, with the last sale made at $395,000 for a lot initially offered at $279,000. One resale currently on the market is priced at $425,000. A limited number of first and second tier bluff-view parcels remain.

The third subdivision is Seaside Estates, a 70 acre planned community of 22 beachfront lots (0.75 to 1.05 acres) located west of Three Mary Cays. Besides paved roads and underground power, the site will include gazebos and basketball and tennis courts. Prices started at $350,000 for an acre on the beach and have already risen to $500,000; first and second tier lots are less, with only six remaining to date.
The group’s future projects include a proposed yacht club/marina at the natural cove at Sandy Point and a 35 acre condominium site next to Sandcastle Estates.

Other areas of interest on North Caicos include the ironshore frontage along scenic Bottle Creek. Here, according to Phillip Misick, there is already a shortage of available lots. “People who like the Chalk Sound area in Provo are drawn to sites along Bottle Creek, which offer similar views and shoreline. But there isn’t a lot of land available in this area, since much is generation land — large chunks of inherited property for which clear title is difficult to procure.”

Who are purchasing these properties? Dee Agingu believes about 70% of her North Caicos clients intend to live on the island, either as a second home or upon retirement. She says, “They’re the adventurous type who want to get away from it all and absorb the island lifestyle. They’re turned off by the condo scene on Provo and are looking for a more quiet, laid-back community.” Nathan Smith estimates that about half of his clients are purchasing North Caicos real estate as an investment, a way to diversify their portfolios. “These are people who are buying ahead of the curve, and those who do intend to eventually build a vacation home see the purchase as a lifestyle asset.”

Events on North Caicos’ water-bound horizon would seem to support a continuing escalation of interest (and land prices). The TCI Government has announced plans to extend the existing runway to accommodate corporate jets and, possibly, commercial aircraft, as well as build a new terminal. There are also plans to build a dock at Bellefield Landing to expedite transporting construction materials and goods to the island via barge, with long-term visions of a deepwater port servicing North and Middle Caicos. The ultimate goal is to someday link the Caicos Islands via roadway.

Phillip Misick is directly involved in two projects that he believes will take North Caicos to the next level. Pelican Beach Villas are six, 3-bedroom beachfront homes, each on an acre of lush beachfront property. The first villa has just been finished and, with prices ranging from $400,000 to $1,000,000, Misick says there is “significant interest” in these homes.

In the planning approval stage is St. Charles Condominiums (named after Misick’s father), located on beautiful Horsestable Beach. This project includes 70 one to three bedroom beachfront condominiums, complete with full amenities including a pool and restaurant. Construction is expected to start in September, 2004.

Besides a number of smaller hotels and condominium properties currently being proposed by local landowners, Misick also alludes to a substantial development at Moore Hall, just west of Three Mary Cays. The proposed beach club/resort will include condos, a hotel/casino, marina and golf course.

Misick and other realtors believe that once a larger population of residents has been established on North Caicos, an expanded choice of goods and services will follow.

And what do the current North Caicos residents think about the changes looming for their peaceful slice of paradise? In true pragmatic fashion, most folks, especially the younger generation, seem eager for the opportunity to work “at home,” rather than commuting to Provo and Parrot Cay as many do, and look forward to an overall expansion of economic opportunities.

But will North Caicos development remain controlled and low-impact, as befitting its natural splendor? That remains to be seen. Already, environmentalists are concerned that some of the protected nature reserves may not have large enough buffer zones built in. And can condominiums and hotels co-exist with upscale homes and rural settlements? Thoughtful, cautious development is the key; much lies in the hands of the TCI Government.

As a whole, the realtors I talked to agreed that change is likely for North Caicos within the next five years; if certain developments take place, the island could be transformed. Phillip Misick summarized it by saying, “The time is right, the foundation is laid . . . North Caicos has tremendous potential.”

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