baha mar
Baha Mar, in Nassau, is the largest single-phase resort in development in the Western Hemisphere.

A hop, skip, and a jump due east from Miami, but far enough over the horizon line that you’ve most certainly left the building, a crop of huge and ultra-luxurious new residential developments are being built in the Bahamas. These new second-home spots and vacation destinations are at a scale the likes of which we’re used to seeing in Miami, but come with uniquely Caribbean superlatives, like state-of-the-art mega-yacht marinas, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, a private beach behind every home, and even experimental alternative energy sources.

On the Bimini Islands, the closest bits of dry land to Miami, the resort of Bimini Bay—eventually to cover almost the entire island of North Bimini—is being presented by its promoters as basically an appendage of Miami, a “Miami East” with existing hotels and casino, and a new crop of high-priced single-family “estate” homes. Genting, that multinational would-be builder of the world’s biggest casino in Miami, has in the last year come in to operate the original resort area and rebrand it as Resorts World Bimini. Perhaps they’re hoping that enough Miamians will come over on Genting’s new Bimini SuperFast ferry, have a fabulous time, and think, Boy, wouldn’t this be more fun without having to schlep through customs!

A new Bimini Bay residential program is being touted as a “Hamptons of Miami.” The Miami-based Capo Group and its subsidiary RAV Bahamas are hard at work on a $250 million residential expansion to Bimini Bay called Rockwell Island Beach Estates. The 105 homes cost $2 million to $4 million each and come in styles with names like Palladian, Moorish, and Feng Shui. Lots stretch the width of the narrow island, giving homeowners two water frontages, a white-sand beach on one side and more than 100 feet of private yacht dockage on the other, a remarkably similar layout to certain oceanfront Palm Beach neighborhoods.

Resorts World Bimini
Resorts World Bimini features a combination of 245 guest units, private island homes, and luxury villas.

A 28-key boutique hotel, club areas, golf course, and cluster of villas on stilts out over Bimini’s turquoise bay (think Bora Bora, not Stiltsville) will complement the Rockwell estate houses. The resort aspect will be furthered by a rental program for homeowners, allowing them to rent out their homes when they are themselves not in residence, with the resort handling all the details.

A few islands farther out, Nassau’s Baha Mar is currently the largest single-phase resort in development in the Western Hemisphere, and the largest single-phase resort ever built in the Caribbean. The $3.5 billion city within a city, as they say, will have a kilometer of beach and rival (the somewhat larger but many-phased) Atlantis, on nearby Paradise Island.

Baha Mar is a resort of superlatives, with staggering figures and many parallels with South Beach. The resort will have a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, lavish gardens, highend shopping, nightlife, and pools galore, and a 200,000-square-foot convention center. Its 2,200 guest rooms and 284 residences are spread over four hotels, each separately managed by a different hotel company brought in for the job. With all this, the resort is projected to single-handedly boost the Bahamian GDP by 10 percent.

The Mondrian
The Mondrian will be one of four hotels at the new Baha Mar.

In an industry where building a truly environmentally friendly resort is almost impossible to achieve due to ballooning costs and uncoordinatable deadlines, Baha Mar is incorporating things like sophisticated water management and waste recycling systems, preserving natural areas, and performing beach restoration. And if everything goes according to plan, about a year after the resort’s opening, a $102 million experimental “deep-sea cooling plant” that was originally planned to be completed by the resort’s opening will come on line, slashing the resort’s air-conditioning bill by 90 percent.

Baha Mar’s residences are in three of the hotels, a Rosewood, a Grand Hyatt, and a Mondrian. Each hotel will have a variety of one-to-three-bedroom condos, with the additional option of four-bedroom beachside villas at Rosewood. And the Mondrian’s units will be designed by Benjamin Noriega Ortiz, famous designer of the Mondrian Los Angeles and Mondrian Soho. A fourth hotel, which Baha Mar is managing itself, to be called simply the Baha Mar Hotel, will also contain the casino, the region’s largest. As at Bimini, Baha Mar will have a rental program, which seems like a pretty standard feature for Bahamian resort living.

In a way, these new Bahamian developments—along with others like the Albany resort on New Providence Island, which is in the middle of its own expansion of starchitect-designed residential buildings—are all happening within the context of neighboring Miami. The Bahamas are of course very much their own place, but as Miami continues its ascendancy on the world stage, its impact on the region will continue to grow. And that region includes these Bahamian islands out in the sea.

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