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Former Enchanted Gardens back on the market for US$15m

The Turtle River Falls and Gardens in St Ann, which was built on lands that formed part of the former Enchanted Gardens property, has been listed for sale on the real estate market for US$15 million, which converts to $2.3 billion in local currency.

Realtor Lorraine Levy said the price was based on market analysis of similar properties sold recently.

The property spans 15 acres, compared to the 20.5 acres in its original embodiment as the Enchanted Gardens eco-resort some three decades earlier. The property was subdivided at the time, with one segment holding structures, and the other being lands for development or preservation as an attraction.

Turtle River is within walking distance of the Ocho Rios cruise pier, as are other attractions such as Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls.

“You can literally have tourists go up there in 15 minutes,” said Levy, who is CEO of Valerie Levy and Associates. “I hope someone comes with vision and brings it back to what it was before.”

The listings blurb describes the property as offering rivers, waterfalls, wildlife, birdwatching, sightseeing, and wild landscapes. It adds that the structures that remain are in need of some TLC, or tender loving care, and could easily be brought back to their original state.

Jamaica’s real estate sector has been booming since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as individual and institutional investors shifted towards land and buildings as a safe bet within the context of falling asset prices in bonds and stocks.

Levy said that booms can fade, but the underlining value of properties will not. That’s due to the scarcity of land.

“They are not making any more of it,” Levy quipped, when asked about pricing of land. “But for right now it is still a very active market, and we have a large diaspora that have an interest in Jamaica. Real estate is still the best investment,” she said.

The Turtle River property was sold for US$5.2 million in 2010 to a locally registered company, according to sources, who declined to give the names of the company. A second realtor corroborated the figure, but also declined to go on record. Levy would also not comment on the previous sale price.

Back in 2000, the 20.5-acre property, which included apartments and related structures, was placed on the market for US$16 million, but the sellers were willing to take US$12.5 million.

The companies that owned and managed Enchanted Gardens were Premium Investments Limited and Town and Country Resorts Limited, both led by key shareholder Edward Seaga, the late prime minister of Jamaica.

The entity, then an eco-attraction and resort, was put into voluntary liquidation by Seaga in August 2003, who said then that the property held debt of $200 million. The company, however, reportedly held sufficient assets to cover the liabilities.

At the time, the Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation, which owned the debt, hired Ken Tomlinson of Business Recovery Services Limited as the receiver and manager under mortgage to sell the Enchanted Gardens property.

Tomlinson dealt with the sale of that property and others as part of a bad-debt portfolio that Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation bought from Finsac, the financial sector bailout company used by the Government to rescue the distressed financial sector in the 1990s.

The property is one of the last remaining large green spaces in the town of Ocho Rios in St Ann.

Both primary agent Valerie Levy and Associates and other realties that also advertise the Turtle River property on their site have said that investors within the tourism industry have been showing interest in acquiring it.

“People want to own an iconic piece of Jamaica,” one agent said.

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