The New Luxury Deliverable: Turks And Caicos Sporting Club, Ambergris Cay
In some of my recent Luxist articles, The Dawn Of A New Economy and From Conspicuous to Conscious Consumption I have suggested how newer definitions of luxury help inform the decisions about how and why people buy in this unusual social-economic climate. I learned from the many presenters at the Luxury Summit, a luxury ideas symposium held last month, about the nuances of an emerging economy with new luxury consumer decision-making processes, especially regarding big ticket items. And few are bigger than second and third homes. It is no secret this market has suffered, as has the primary home market in 2009. But there are rays of light in 2010, and especially with the Turks And Caicos Sporting Club at Ambergris Cay. Amid the barrage of news about market declines and foreclosures, this club is doing well. And the reasons for success circle back to the trends explored at the Luxury Summit.
" Last year," recounts Steve Schram, CEO and Managing Partner of DPS Development who owns and runs Ambergris Cay, "was basically a static year. We didn't make money, we didn't lose money There were a few sales, but nothing like we were used to. Then, in 2010, YTD, we have done 20M worth of new home sales. It seemed as if potential buyers were actually hesitant to call us in 2009, and then, in 2010, they called. It was as if the phone lines were reconnected. Most were member referrals, which is always rewarding. There are three new homes just started and another seven to ten starting in the next six months. We will start two of these houses in the next two months. Members and their families know what they receive here, and it fits so well with a newer sense of social and environmental responsibility, along with a sense of being connected to each other and to the island."
One of the many trends gleaned from the Luxury Summit, and borne out by the success of the Turks And Caicos Sporting Club, is that the luxury consumer is not on autopilot anymore. Their purchasing interests have evolved from I want to I need to we need: essentially a journey from individual self-absorption to a kind of familial populism. The consequence of such a shift is the take away value -- which has also moved from quantitative excess to a qualitative rediscovery of feeling favorably connected -- whether it is with people or new experiences. In both instances, Ambergris Cay fits with these ideas in an eco -sensitive, communitarian way.
Owned and managed by DPS Development, Ambergris Cay itself is a private island about 3 ½ miles long by 1 ½ miles wide, about 1100 acres, 450 of which is a nature preserve. It is a 25 minute plane ride from the Providenciales airport to the Ambergris Cay airport, with its 5700 foot paved jet strip and Customs/Welcome house. Club members often fly their private jets in and out of this airport, either back to Provo or Miami or beyond. It is 575 miles from the Florida mainland.
The original vision for this island was conceived by Henry Mensen, a Canadian developer and visionary who bought Ambergris Cay is the mid 1990's, with the belief that an eco-sensitive community could exist and sustain itself, once the island was discovered by others. He built a personal family compound at the eastern tip of the island, called Ocean Rise, and hoped others would discover it also. Who did discover it and see its possibilities were Steve Schram and Peter Pollak, founders and owners of DPS Development, a well respected development company, whose earlier enterprises included The Ford Plantation, The Greenbrier and the Snake River Sporting Club, to name a few. Steve and Peter understood Mensen's vision: an ongoing sustainable development that included an eco-sensitive infrastructure. To that end, Menson sold it to DPS, and the cautious planning commenced, infrastructure first. This plan-- now completed -- included the airstrip, the radio tower that allows Internet and cable TV in all the homes, a large reverse osmosis water purification and filtration system plant that allows pure water into the homes, the irrigation systems, and the Calico Jack (the Club's restaurant and bar) Pavilion. Because of the DPS commitment to eco-sensitive processes, Ambergris Cay also has a glass and plastic recycling program, and clean burning trash incineration.. There is also a new Environmental Learning Center, used by children and families of members to learn more about the unusual flora and fauna of the island.
The Club is redefining the meaning of a traditional sporting club. When many think of a sporting club, they think of golf courses, tennis courts, multiple swimming pools, yacht racing, where nature is separated from culture, and sanctuary is separated from adventure. It is very different here, as members use the Club as it was envisioned – both as a haven for adventure and for sanctuary from the world. In both cases, the sensuous component is never far away. The members and friends often go fishing, always catch fish, and then the catch is taken to Chef Tadd Frye, who in turn creates dishes of Sashimi and sushi, from Ahi tuna, Grouper, Yellowtail, Conch. The members can also go on Flamingo searches, snorkeling and deeper diving expeditions, all types of fishing, catamaran sailing, and sea kayaking.
Other activities are nature walks, both in the day and in the evening to see the highly hybridized flora of the island – an example: Turks Hat cacti that grow only on this Cay. There are also explorable pirate and Loyalist ruins here also. The evening nature walks expose peering red eyes in the dense brush and bush. Of course, in the daytime there are large Rock Iguanas at many turns in the road, always looking at bemused members in a stern, reprimanding way – whose island do you think this is? they seem to ask. And when members need some sanctuary within sanctuary, there is a Wellness Center, offering Yoga and Qigong, and massage sessions.
At present, there are now over 200 members have purchased view lots and have built or are building beach cottages -- large three and four bedroom homes, all with ocean views, and ocean access. Some have plunge pools; all have decks that look out to sea. Pricing runs between $600,000 and $3M per lot, given the size. At present, thirty lots are available.
This Club has allowed the meaning of luxury to evolve into newer dimensions of balance, happiness and community. The few brands that propagate this Platonic idea of eudemonia, translated as human flourishing, flourish themselves.