CAY HILL–The massive Pearl of China project will indeed be split in two, with its planned convention and training centre to be moved to across the road from Raoul Illidge Sports Complex on Welgelegen Road.
Local representative of the partly-China-Government-backed project Cengiz Kucuk of the Caribbean-China people Foundation told The Daily Herald on Tuesday that the acquisition of the land owned by McSood Amjad for the construction of the centre is in the finalisation stage. The convention and trading centre will include 250 units for use as apartments and offices.
On the current trajectory, the centre in the new location is still slated for completion at the end of 2018, the original target. All drawings and applications for building and other permits for the site are in the completion stage.
The centre will be constructed from prefabricated panels that will be shipped in from China and assembled on the site. This will speed up construction time for the project.
Plans for a five-star hotel on the Belair beachfront, the original location for the entire Pearl of China project, have not been abandoned, said Kucuk, who is the Foundation’s co-founder and executive president. This will still be built in the future.
The reason for splitting up the project was deed restrictions imposed by the original property owner Rudy Nunes. Those restrictions were passed on when the property was acquired for the construction of the NAGICO Insurances headquarters and were still in effect when the property was bought by the Pearl of China developers.
Despite intense negotiations with the original owner who imposed the deed restriction, parties failed to reach an agreement about a deviation from the restriction. The Chinese developers opted to seek out another location for part of the project and later settled on the land across from the Sports Complex.
Kucuk said several large landowners had approached the developers about their properties, but the decision had been made to stick with the land on which the convention centre will be built in the coming months.
The Pearl of China project continues to have the support of both the China and St. Maarten Governments. Both are aware of the development and economic boost the convention and trading centre, and later the hotel, will bring to businesses in China and to the economy of St. Maarten via investment and tourism, Kucuk said.
When announcing the project in September 2016, ahead of the Parliamentary Elections, Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. had described the Pearl of China project as a multi-million-dollar “jackpot” project for the country.
Originally, the Belair beachfront land was to house a 326-room hotel with a convention centre and 450 executive apartments to be constructed via a Chinese public-private venture. A company reflecting 50 per cent share ownership by the Chinese Government and 50 per cent by the Chinese private sector companies has been established in St. Maarten.
The 450 apartments were to be bought by Chinese private sector companies for their executives and staff who will transact business from St. Maarten. This along with the convention centre will make St. Maarten “a hub and centre” for Chinese commercial activities in the region, Gibson Sr. said in September 2016.
Also at the unveiling of the project, the Minister had stated that the Chinese have pledged as “a gift” to St. Maarten “to find a water source” to boost agriculture, Gibson Sr. said.
A symbolic ground-breaking ceremony was held at the Belair site on September 17, 2016, when it was announced that actual construction was set to start in the first quarter of 2017. The start did not happen due to the deed restrictions encountered which led to the splitting of the project into two locations.
Developer Trey Cui Shuqiang of New Life Town Investment and Development Limited said at the ground-breaking that Pearl of China would generate 400 permanent jobs, for which the local population has been urged to get suitably trained mainly in the hospitality field. The jobs will not come online until the hotel and convention centre for Las Vegas-style conventions and conferences is completed.
Shuqiang promised at the ceremony to donate a fully-equipped ambulance to Windward Islands Emergency Medical Services (WIEMS), 4,000 solar panels, 1,000 energy-efficient light bulbs, 500 inverter air conditioners for schools and senior citizens, and tables and chairs for the temporary location of Charlotte Brookson Academy for the Performing Arts, housed in the old Government Administration Building on Clem Labega Square.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68361-pearl-of-china-centre-for-welgelegen-road