Wednesday, April 8th 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Over the Easter weekend the New York Times broke the story of plans by award-winning actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio to investment in a mega-development on his privately-held island, Blackadore Caye.
DiCaprio has joined with a New York City-based firm Delos and a top architect in Jason McLennan to develop the Caye into an Eco-tourism paradise for the top end of society, with million-dollar condominiums overlooking the Caribbean Sea and health and personal wellness development center in conjunction with restoration of the island’s natural habitat.
But while there are plans to open in 2018, does the project have backing here and environmental clearance? Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia says work on the environmental impact assessment is ongoing and no formal plans have been presented, but the Government does appear to like the concept. He explained that the project will be subject to the usual environmental review but from what he has seen so far he said he appreciated the concept of an eco-tourist destination like this one.
The project promises employment for hundreds of Belizeans who will be trained in “green-building” techniques. That is good news for Heredia, who as area representative of Belize Rural South which includes the caye says those jobs will be essential to the success of the project.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow is quoted in online sources as also tentatively supporting the project. Cabinet’s Sub-Committee on Investment is expected to get the first crack at the development plans to which it will apply its five-point criteria covering environmental, economic, socio-cultural and other considerations.
And while Blackadore Caye appears to be off and running, a former development darling seems to have fallen out of favor. The project at Puerto Azul in the Lighthouse Range ran into severe criticism from environmental activists and the developers’ response has stalled the project, according to Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia Jr. He today said he does not expect any movement on the project before the end of this year as the developers are still getting their act together.