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Gore to take on its largest project - Investing $10b to $12b in St Catherine homes

Gore Developments Limited has acquired a 475-acre property at Old Harbour in St Catherine from Matalon-owned West Indies Home Contractors (WIHCON) to develop more than 2,000 homes on lands known as Whim and Brampton Farms.

Christopher Gore, managing director of Gore Developments Limited, confirmed the purchase Tuesday, but declined to say how much he paid for the property. But the entire development will be a $10 billion to $12-billion investment, Gore told Wednesday Business.

The environmental report posted on National Environment and Planning Agency's (NEPA) website indicates that the development will have 2,341 homes.  "We have acquired the land from WIHCON," said Gore. "The location was very good. The other advantage is that WIHCON had moved far ahead with the project." But there are still approvals pending, he said. The company has already produced an environmental impact assessment report on the development, on which a public hearing has already been held as dictated by planning rules.

Change of plans

WIHCON in January had disclosed that it would be pursuing a development at Whim, saying it would be one of the biggest projects to be rolled out this year. But last week when Wednesday Business learned the property had changed hands, WIHCON's Administrative Manager, Judith Bruce, declined to speak about the deal.

"I don't have anything to say on it now," she said in response to questions from Wednesday Business. Earlier this year, Bruce had told Wednesday Business that WIHCON had planned to build 1,000 homes on the property.

But WIHCON up to that point had put in no requests to planning authorities for approval of the development. It had, however, said Gore done designs and subdivisioning of the property in preparation for development. Gore is now awaiting final approval and permits from NEPA to move ahead with the project, hopefully by October or November.

Two phases of development

The developments will be in two phases: New Harbour II, which will comprise 1,388 two-bedroom units on 275 acres of land at Whim; and 953 houses on 200 acres at Brampton Farms to be known as New Harbour III.

The project, which would be one of the largest to be undertaken by Gore, is an extension of its New Harbour Village, which was put on the market in 2007. Gore had done 845 complex of two-bedroom homes there. He said that project was very successful with all but two units left to be sold.

"These will be slightly bigger houses than New Harbour Village," he said.

"It will be the same concept. It will be similar to our Rhyne Park development in Rose Hall, Montego Bay.".

New Harbour II and III will be rolled out over five years, assuming the project approvals are given in time to meet the fall deadline for construction. The first set of homes should be ready for the market by February/March 2010, with an estimated price tag of $6.25 million for the two-bedroom units.

The price is subject to escalation.

Gore's other big project is an 828-unit development in Trelawny, costed at $4.5 billion to $5 billion. "Assuming that all goes well, we will start construction September/October and (start) handing over by January next year," said Gore of the Trelawny development called Oyster Bay.

The units which will go on the market this weekend, with each unit priced at $5.9 million.

Asked why his company was pumping $17 billion into developments in a period of recession, Gore said these were well-thought out projects.

"We spent a lot of time researching and making sure that it is a good project," he said.

"We have been very conservative in our prices. Our assumption is that the market is there. There is a shortage of houses and once the price (is affordable) and it is good quality (people will buy)."

Indeed, Gore's homes are priced towards the lower end of the real estate market where realtors say demand is still heavy while inventory is in short supply.

From The Jamaica Gleaner,  July 29, 2009