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Wednesday 6th August 2014

Developers behind the country’s first mega resort say job fairs to hire hundreds of locals to help build it will be staged within weeks.

Groundbreaking on the US$1bn multi-hotel, residential and commercial project is scheduled for this autumn with construction due to begin early next year. Named ‘Singulari’ in tribute to its unique design, the mammoth 1,600-acre development will be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean - 50 per cent bigger than the regionally-heralded Baha Mar resort being created in the Bahamas.

In addition to the employment opportunities, Singulari is being lauded as a major feather in the nation’s tourism cap and further proof of growing investor confidence in Antigua & Barbuda.

A spokesman for China-based developers Yida International Investment Group confirmed locals would be given first priority during the hiring process.

"We will host sessions to educate the locals about the project and invite all of those interested to apply," he said.

Around 200 jobs will become available later this year when the land is prepared for development, and a further 800 next year when construction starts.

The spokesman continued: "Over the next 10 years, Yida Group and its global partners will create an additional US$2bn of gross domestic product and economic value to Antigua, including sales of real estate, creation of new industries and origination of foreign direct investment all across Antigua."

Spanning 900 acres of land in the north-east and 700 acres of tiny isles including Crump Island and Guiana Island, Singulari will include several luxury hotels, hundreds of private homes, a school, hospital, marinas, two signature golf courses, an entertainment district, horse racing track and the region’s biggest casino.

The mainland section will form the development’s central hub complete with nightlife and duty-free shopping facilities, a business district and light industrial area. Crump Island will see the construction of elegant hillside homes with private docks accessed by a fully-serviced mainland marina complex. And Guiana Island will be transformed into an exclusive Jumby Bay-style array of 80 to 100 luxury, low density homes.

The development has garnered some controversy over its potential environmental impact on the area’s nature reserves.

The Yida spokesman said investors were “very aware” of the need for eco-sensitive practices. “We will be undertaking special measures to ensure that the natural beauty and ecosystems of the north sound area of Antigua remain unspoilt for generations to come,” he said, adding that the group had a “special interest” in working closely with, and giving back to, the local community. Previous schemes Yida has been involved in overseas have been coupled with ‘goodwill’ investments in educational scholarships and healthcare.

Sam Dyson, of Luxury Locations real estate agency which introduced the Chinese investors to the island in May 2013 and negotiated the deal with the land's liquidators, said he’d been impressed by Yida’s “vision for the country”.

“Yida has a strong reputation internationally for environmental, corporate and social responsibility. We really liked their ethos and their commitment to making a positive contribution here in Antigua.”

In June, lead investor Yida Zhang agreed to personally fund the tuition of more than 100 students who were unable to afford their fees at Christ the King High School in Old Parham Road.

Mr Dyson continued: “Yida is committed to hiring hundreds of local people and ensuring the development is environmentally sensitive and that the nature reserves are meticulously maintained.

“We were delighted to introduce Yida to Gilbert Boustany, representing the Stanford liquidators who own the land, as we believe Singulari will provide Antigua & Barbuda with an economic boost and galvanise the destination as a tourism force to be reckoned with.”

Mr Dyson said the Jolly Harbour-based firm was looking forward to showcasing the development’s first properties next year after being appointed sales and marketing agents. He added that more details about Singulari could be found in the latest edition of Luxury Locations' magazine.

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