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ROYAL ISLAND, BAHAMAS-In a venture its founder calls “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Texas-based investor Behringer Harvard is teaming with football legend Roger Staubach on the transformation of a private island into an expansive resort community. When completed, the chic Royal Island will feature an 80-room boutique hotel, hundreds of residential units, a village center and a championship golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

“It’s quite an exciting project,” Behringer Harvard SVP James Fant tells GlobeSt.com, with the firm buying a one-third interest in the venture. The exact commitment amount was not released.

The deal fits Behringer Harvard’s increased attention to the hospitality sector, according to Fant. “These are not elements foreign to us or the founder of the company,” he says, explaining that CEO Robert Behringer has made individual investments in such projects, while the firm recently took over a family run resort in the Florida Keys that is being upgraded to at least a four-star status. Hawk’s Cay Resort, as the Florida resort is called, should benefit from Behringer Harvard’s capital and management approach, Fant says.

Behringer Harvard has also bought into various leisure-focused hotels in the past 12 months, says Fant, who oversees the acquisitions program. Beyond the in-house knowledge, the firm is recruiting seasoned professionals to handle the increased duties, he says. As for Royal Island, Fant says Staubach’s affiliate, Cypress Equities, has already assembled “a great team to execute the plan.” Much of the design and conceptual work has been completed, he says, and Cypress officials have also negotiated most of the terms with the Bahamian government.

When fully built out, Royal Island will have 96 beachfront estate homes, 107 villas and 15 townhouses, while 44 villas will be situated adjacent to the hotel. Beach clubs will be scattered throughout the island, along with sidewalk cafes and restaurants. A “preview village” will soon be open to allow potential owners to stay overnight and experience the project’s potential. The 18-hole golf course will have its own exclusivity as one of 25 in the Jack Nicklaus Golf Program, an initiative that not only increases the Golden Bear’s personal oversight of the design, but also allows “worldwide founding members” the chance to stay at his resort home accompanying each property.

Given the high level of buyers being targeted for Royal Island, Fant says the participation of both Staubach and Nicklaus was a critical piece of Behringer Harvard believing in the ambitious undertaking. There are also geographical benefits that sets Royal Island apart, Fant adds, including 15 miles of coastline that will ensure waterfront access for homebuyers, plus bluffs on the island’s southern end that provide unfettered vistas. The “heart” of the island is its 140-acre harbor, says Fant, one deep enough to accommodate vessels up to 300-feet long.

“All of those ingredients put together make this a special project,” Fant says. The developers will create a 200-slip marina will be incorporated into the waterfront along with a yacht fueling station, a customs office and retail/restaurant facilities. Assembled together, “Royal Island should be well-positioned to become the premier luxury resort in the Bahamas,” predicts Robert Behringer, adding, “This one-of-a-kind opportunity is a unique and dynamic investment considering the current desire by many for an exclusive Caribbean vacation close to the United States mainland.” Situated between Harbour Island and North Eleuthera, Royal Island is about 190 miles from the US.

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