Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 3rd 2016 Contents BG4 COVER STORY
www.guardian.co.tt March 3 • 2016
With a $45 million
investment and a
projection of 100
permanent jobs to be
Caribbean Development Ltd (ACDL) is moving
into Arima to develop Plaza O Meara on 27,000
sq ft of land and is determined to meet its
target completion date of December 2016.
Already, projects that Amera is part of are:
constructing malls in Chaguanas, San Fer-
nando, a building complex at Queen s Park
West and several other projects throughout
But, just as with every other business in
T&T, there are factors that Amera s managing
director, Joseph Rahael, had to consider before
deciding to embark on this venture. These
included: how long will T&T s economic con-
traction last; competition, sourcing labour and
material as well as competing with online
What is clear, however, is by starting con-
struction of a retail shopping venture in the
middle of an economic downturn, Rahael is
expressing confidence in the country s long-
Certain that T&T s economy is stable, even
though it is subject to changing oil and gas
prices, Rahael said trends have shown in the
past that the economy was managed well and
continues to be managed well.
He added that his company believes in the
economy now and in the long term. Amera s
business model, Rahael said, also reflects a
long-term approach to property development.
"Over the years we have been able to manage
our affairs in a reasonable way at a time when
we had shocks.
"It is lucrative when you have a long-term
horizon. So, even if we may be in a recession
now, it doesn t necessarily impact our long-
term approach to our investments."
Rahael said what a recession allows is the
ability to access material and labour at less
expensive prices. If the economy was expanding
at a fast clip, material and labour would not
be available at low prices.
"You are able to get materials faster; you
are able to access better labour at a cheaper
price. You can get your stuff on the port a
little bit easier. There are things during a reces-
sion you can take advantage of in order to
deliver your product in a way you want to."
Asked whether obtaining financing for the
project was an issue, Rahael said: "No. In the
end we ended up not needing financing so
we did not go to the local lenders to raise any
financing for this project. However, we did
get parties to participate: the local banking
sector asking to participate.
"This would have been similar to other proj-
ects in the past where we were able access
local bank funding without too much stress."
Specifically addressing the issue of labour,
he said, the availability of labour is a concern
especially in the construction sector. But the
company has incentive programmes in place
for its sub-contractors and direct staff to keep
"We have, in prior years, sought to supple-
ment local labour with Caricom-type labour,
whether it is approved workers from Jamaica
or even Barbados especially at the managerial
level. We have not found a need to do that in
recent times because, probably as a result of
the recession, there are more jobs available."
Rahael remained hopeful that the company
can "tap into good quality local labour in order
to achieve our goal. So far, we have been able
to ensure our workers on this project are 100
per cent local."
The project started in October 2015 and, if
labour and material are accessible on a timely
basis, completion of the project would be on
time for December 2016, Rahael said. The
project is owned by Endeavour Holdings Ltd,
a real estate development company that was
formed 15 years ago in order to do property
development throughout T&T.
Amera Caribbean is the developer and it is
responsible for developing the project on behalf
of its client, Endeavour Holdings. "Amera
would be responsible for site acquisition,
financing, design, and tender, supervising con-
struction, marketing and tenancy."
Shopping online has not superceded the
traditional means of going to a plaza or mall,
Rahael said, adding, "There is still demand
for such an experience. While online shopping
may be suitable for certain types of products,
many products still require to be touched and
felt and tried on prior to purchase; not to
mention the joy of taking your family or loved
ones out for ice cream or dinner or just to
The project, he said, would not be affected
by the depreciating dollar.
Apart from other businesses in the Arima
borough which would be competing against
Plaza O Meara, Rahael said it gives consumers
more options of places to shop. Those options
would give rise to better choices for tenants
and consumers too.
"It would be our job to differentiate ourselves
from the competition either through our
design, our circulation, parking or by way of
our mix of tenants."
While Arima is not necessarily the new
Port-of-Spain for Rahael, what is clear for
him is that Arima is a growing borough.
Describing the types of clients who were
approached to be part of the mall, he said the
company has alliances with all the top retailers
in T&T, some of whom are also tenants in
other malls the company manages.
While not wanting to disclose who the ten-
ants would be, he said: "One tenant is new
to T&T but it s an internationally recognised
brand in the food and beverage sector."
Asked about the location of the plaza, Rahael
said it was chosen because it is one of the
more populated communities in T&T. It was
"natural," therefore, that Arima would have
been one of the places in which the company
would construct retail space.
There is space for 15 units but, Rahael said,
when marketing for the space starts, "you
may find someone may want a bigger space,
some may want smaller spaces, and it is likely
to grow to between 18 and 20 spaces."
Concerning security for the plaza, he said
the company has strategic alliances with secu-
rity firms in the country. Security would be
based on a combination of patrols and tech-
Giving back to Arima would be in the form
of maintaining and upgrading the nearby park
for members of the community and access
would be created from the mall to the park.
With respect to traffic, Rahael said open
discussions were held with the highways divi-
sion to ensure there is limited congestion in
will not stop plaza
Last year, Rahael was involved in an initial
public offering of shares in the Stallion Prop-
erty Trust, which attempted to raise $382 mil-
lion in equity and fixed-income investments in
order to pay down $360 million in debt.
The offer was not fully subscribed.
Rahael said "Stallion was a learning experi-
ence, but that's behind us now. We are in dis-
cussions with our economic and tax advisers
as to what is next with Endeavour Holdings. If
you recall, Endeavour Holdings was going to
be converted into Stallion."
He added that EHL continued to be very
strong and active in real estate development.
Not ruling out a return of Stallion, he said:
"In the future, when the time is right, we will
re-approach the investing sector in order to
create some equity participation."
Milshriv hasn't been a dark cloud over
Amera, he said.
"The dark cloud was politically motivated.
We entered into an arrangement with the To-
bago House of Assembly to provide an office
building for them which is not unusual.
"At the time we entered into the arrange-
ment the then ruling government tried to
cast this dark shadow over us for their own
political agenda and, unfortunately for them,
that failed. Their case was thrown out of
court and we were able to prove everything
was above board and there were no issues
There were elections at the time the con-
troversy surfaced so that "the ruling party
was looking for means to disparage and dis-
credit each other. We got caught in the cross-
Public Utilities Minister Ancil Antoine, second
from left, turns the sod for the construction of
the O'Meara Shopping Plaza in Arima, last week.
Looking on from left is chairman of Endeavour
Holdings John Aboud, developer and director of
Amera Caribbean Development Joseph Rahael and
the Arima Mayor, George Hadeed. PHOTO:MARCUS
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