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Feinstein to Invest Over $300 Million on Stake Bank Project Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 05 September 2013 00:00

Michael Feinstein and Project Team     The Feinstein Group of Companies (FCG) is prepared to move forward on a US$150 million project off the coast of Belize City that involves the development of Stake Bank Island and North Drowned Caye into first class destinations for foreign and domestic tourists.


Michael Feinstein, Chairman of the Feinstein Group of Companies, hosted a press conference on Wednesday, September 4th, to give an overview of the project. State Bank Island is located four nautical miles south east of Belize City. Feinstein will invest US$67.5 million to develop the island into an entertainment centre with a port for the berthing of cruise ships. The port will be capable of hosting four voyager class cruise ships at any given time. Stake Bank will also provide a marina for transiting yachts and facilities for shops restaurants and bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues. There will also be an “independent entertainment and shopping area for cruise crew members” as well as a Mayan themed water park. The need for a berthing facility near Belize City cannot be overstated as the cruise lines have expressed dissatisfaction with the tendering arrangement on multiple occasions. The majority of passengers choose not to leave the massive ships with luxury service to board the boats that look like dories from the deck. According to FCG, those that do board tenders have complained because it is “unsafe and accidents have occurred”. Only a little over 40% of passengers that get off the ships actually organize tours because of the poor experience while boarding the tenders and aggressive greeting by tour operators near the Fort Street Tourism Village. In 2010, Seleni Matus, then BTB Director, said, “We are losing on an annual basis close to $50 million because of the poor presentation that we have as our destination.” The Ministry of Tourism has spent millions of dollars to improve the infrastructure and train the individuals operating in the area but FCG is promoting the Stake Bank project as the permanent solution to the Belize City cruise tourism woes.

The second feature of the project has been dubbed Ocean View Grand. It is an US$89 million investment in the development of North Drowned Caye into a multiuse luxury village resort. North Drowned Caye is located two nautical miles from Belize City. The project includes the construction of a luxury marina condo hotel and conference facility, high end villas and a duty free shopping area. Feinstein says it will be a “full service activity island” that will be opened to all Belizeans. Feinstein says the intent of the duty free area opened to the public is in order to attract those heading to Chetumal. He admits that some local merchants are concerned about the idea of a duty free zone opened to the public but says, from his discussions with most of them, they have adopted the position that the people are going to spend millions in Chetumal anyway so hopefully those millions will now be spent here. Phase I of the project has already begun which is the development of a “Marina Village” capable of handling vessels from small crafts to mega-yachts. It also includes a staging area for catamaran service between the island and the mainland.

It has not been highlighted in their press conference nor in their pamphlets but the most ambitious feature of the project is a causeway between North Drowned Caye and Belize City. Perhaps that is because it is also the most criticized for the potential harm it could cause to the environment. Feinstein says he has heard the criticisms and declared “no manatees will be harmed during this project”. He said it would actually be beneficial to marine life as the structure will be used as habitat and feeding base for organisms in the area.

FCG is still awaiting approval from multiple Government regulatory bodies. Feinstein said, “We are ready to proceed the day after permits are granted.” He said they have finances to start the project today and should be fully financed within six months. It is anticipated that over 1,200 jobs will be provided during the construction phase of the project and over 3,000 direct jobs will be available as the facilities become operational. The project is expected to take up to three years for completion.