MCP Director Jeri Benjamin revealed in an exclusive interview with OBSERVER Media that plans for an EC $12 million advertising campaign aim to turn the commercial centre into a regional shopping hotspot.
However, Minister of Finance Harold Lovell has warned of the potential impact on existing local retailers if the massive mall featuring discounted goods goes ahead.
Lovell previously said, “my only issue would be subject to the impact that it would have on the retail sector, but it is a project I support.”
Benjamin declined to disclose the identity of nine other leading members of MCP. She also revealed that a number of obstacles had been cleared – paving the way for the giant scheme – including forcing the government to drop their demands for EC $30 million to be placed in an escrow account as proof of their financial clout.
“I just thought that was so outrageous because that leaves us with $30 million set aside in a performance bond,” said Benjamin.
“We spoke to him (Minister Lovell) and I was not comfortable that we owed the government that payment,” she added.
Benjamin said through negotiations they convinced the government to first lower the amount, then drop it entirely.
It will be MCP’s first project, should it get the go ahead, and the funding will come from a company that is yet to be revealed.
“I am not at will to disclose the name of the investors at the moment; that information is before the government,” said Benjamin.
“The money is not going to come from within the group members. The money is going to be provided by the financier and it will be a composition of debt and equity financing,” she added.
The MCP director said the other directors are young Antiguans and include accountants, an interior designer and persons involved in a healthcare business. She said MCP began with three members in 2007.
Plans are for 40 per cent of the commercial centre to be occupied by an undisclosed entertainment complex and major retailer. Benjamin denied rumours that the retailer involved is Walmart – but would not disclose the name of the real retailer involved. Fifty-four other units will be available for individual businesses.
The complex will be 435,000 square feet and has been earmarked for 48.28 acres of land near the National Heroes’ Park.
Benjamin said her understanding is the government is considering a lease with option to purchase agreement.
She explained the aim is to capture shoppers that normally travel to Puerto Rico and St Maarten and capitalise on Antigua’s strength as a regional hub for Caribbean airline Liat.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)