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Bimini Unveils Sumptuous Overwater Villas: The New Riviera of Wall Street South


Lauren Miller

May 17, 2024 - 05:49 am


The Emergence of Wall Street South's Luxurious Oasis

(Bloomberg) – A lavish retreat for the affluent crowd of Miami is on the horizon, and it's not the often-touted West Palm Beach. Rafael Reyes, at the helm of Rockwell Island Development Group, is crafting a sanctuary of opulence in Bimini, the Bahamian jewel a mere 48 nautical miles from the bustling shores of Florida. Miami's status as a financial mecca is rising, now boasting the 33rd spot on a global scale in millionaire population density.

The trip from Miami is bafflingly swift for the city's 4 million boat owners, with the journey to Bimini taking a mere 40 minutes of cruising. A high-speed ferry can whisk travelers across the water in a similar timeframe, while more common ferry services complete the trip in 90 minutes. Opt for aerial luxury with companies like HeliFlite and the expansive I-95 disappears beneath you, arriving in Bimini in a mere 25 minutes.

Today, Bimini is far from meeting the gold standards of the well-heeled traveler, but Reyes is orchestrating a transformation at breakneck speed. A gauntlet of dining connoisseurs and leisure aficionados will be catered to with establishments like Bonito, the sibling of the prestigious St. Barts venue and Betula of Aspen. But the pièce de résistance will land in 2026 with Banyan Tree's resort, unveiling the nation's inaugural overwater villas amidst a stunning man-made islet cluster, heralding in rooms with a starting rate of $3,000 per night.

The lavish master-planned community, dubbed Rockwell Island, is set to be a fusion of grandeur and infrastructure, pegged at an estimated cost of $245 million. This grand total includes a remarkable $80 million channeled from public-private partnerships expressly aimed at buoying Bimini's airport to facilitate direct flights from major U.S. airlines.

Charting a Luxurious Course for Bimini

"Bimini's storied past is steeped in the era of Hemingway and the American Prohibition when it was the go-to escape for those evading alcohol restrictions just off the East Coast," says Reyes. Now, he aspires to revitalize the island's former splendor. Bimini is but a tiny speck of paradise – five square miles of tranquil, crystalline waters. Since the 90s, Reyes' firm, an offshoot of RAV Bahamas Ltd., has acquired over half of its land. During his tenure, Reyes has championed the creation of a seaplane port, helicopter pads, and a ferry terminal, essential for the semi-weekly import of supplies from the U.S. The island now boasts the largest marina in the Bahamian Family Islands, overshadowing the exclusive Albany community's marina on New Providence Island.

Reyes is intent on enticing the Mediterranean's fleet of seafaring behemoths. "How do we draw them here?" He believes the key lies in setting a high bar for the culinary scene and dispatching tenders to accommodate any offshore docking needs.

Arriving this summer, Bonito will be the first of many such planned ventures. Anchoring the high dining selection, additions in the future include a chic beach bar, serving top-tier Italian cuisine, and more familiar brand names in the pipeline. Though the full realization of the Banyan Tree resort is a few years off, it will initially roll out serene components like the overwater spa and gourmet hotspots to cater to the island's already visiting population and yacht enthusiasts.

Crafting a World-Class Resort

Envisaged as a stunning oasis, the Banyan Tree resort will be a crowning jewel with a collection of 50 rooms and villas designed to resemble buoyant, ivory havens, complete with outdoor terraces and private pools. Towering on stilts, the main pool and restaurant will stretch into the ocean expanse.

Gabriel Gn from Banyan Group recognizes the Bimini resort as a flagship project, integral to the brand's American expansion. Since rebranding as Banyan Group, it seeks to vie with titans like Marriott and Hilton, brandishing a vibrant assortment of hotels and a burgeoning expansion pipeline.

"Bimini is poised to be one of the most enchanting in our portfolio," Gn asserts. Remarkably, this Banyan Tree resort will feature its first-ever overwater bungalows, a distinct leap from its pioneer resort in the Maldives, which predated the overwater trend.

Constructing overwater accommodations in the Caribbean is no trivial feat. Only Sandals has convinced Caribbean nations to approve such projects, leading to overwater rooms in Jamaica and St. Vincent. Other minor independent resorts pepper the region, from Mexico to Antigua and Belize, but none rival the Maldivian extravagance.

View more about Sandals Resorts' luxury accommodations.

Government wariness about the potential ecological impact has stalled overwater developments. Reyes recalls taking Bahamian tourism officials to the Maldives to warm them to the concept. His and Gn's commitment is to environmentally sensitive construction. Any displaced coral is transplanted, with plans to place artificial reefs within view from the villas' glass flooring, and the design incorporates wildlife-friendly lighting. In deference to the local ecosystem, portions of land will remain untouched to preserve mangrove forests vital for marine life and the island's fisheries.

Reyes underscores his dedication to fostering infrastructure that uplifts the local populace, including water treatment and power facilities to serve the full island. Job creation is also on the horizon, with the Banyan Tree resort alone projected to create about 200 jobs.

"In New York, when one dreams of an escape, it is the Hamptons that beckons. Here, I'm sculpting an equivalent in a Caribbean idiom, splashed with a tinge of the Maldives," Reyes envisions.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

As we've tailored this news story from Bloomberg's latest report, it paints the making of a new luxury destination at Wall Street South's doorstep. An illustrious journey awaits those who seek refuge from the clamor of urban sprawl, as the Bahamian island of Bimini molds itself into the next escape haven, looking to wed the affluence of the Hamptons with the idyllic Maldivian allure, without the lengthy voyage.

Poised on the cusp of a transformation, Bimini tempts the elite of Miami with a sanctuary that's a mere stone's throw away from the frenetic pace of their high-powered lives. And as Rockwell Island breaks ground and the first of its kind overwater bungalows rise from the crystal waters, we watch with bated breath as Bimini stakes its claim as a supreme rendezvous for the world's most indulgent travelers.