PDI Capital Group Korea held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday on its $10-million project to complete the construction of a long-abandoned, castle-shaped hotel across the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport, bringing renewed optimism among government officials, the private sector, and foreign investors about the CNMI's pathway to economic recovery.
The seven-story Forest Hill Hotel with a rooftop pool, however, is just one of the many projects that PDI Capital Group Korea hopes to invest in on the islands.
PDI Capital Group Korea board chair Sung Jin Lee and chief executive officer Daniel Chang said overall investment plans in the CNMI range anywhere from $50 million to $70 million.
However, for some, there is “guarded” optimism because other foreign investors have also done groundbreaking ceremonies and presented ambitious plans to build hotels and casino resorts on Saipan, Tinian and Rota-only for those plans to fizzle out months or years later.
Nevertheless, PDI Capital Group Korea's Lee, Chang, Gov. Eloy S. Inos and other CNMI officials separately said the completion of Forest Hill Hotel's construction will help answer the need to have more rooms in the CNMI where tourism arrivals have been picking up and hotel occupancy rates are seeing record highs in years.
The first phase of the two-phased Forest Hill project includes the completion of the hotel with over 70 rooms, a rooftop swimming pool, a spa, restaurants, a coffee shop, a function room and boutique shops. The second phase includes construction of luxury villas.
The hotel sits on 48,000 square meters of private land with a great view of Saipan's Lagoon, the island of Tinian, Mount Tapochau, and acres of greenery. It is also the nearest hotel to the international airport.
Inos said this will be “quite an improvement,” considering that the unfinished construction has become an eyesore for years.
“Hopefully this will be the start of many investments to come,” Inos later told reporters.
Just like other CNMI government officials and private businesses, Inos hopes that this hotel development will come to fruition.
PDI Capital Group's CEO, Chang, said they will be the financer and manager of the project.
Chang, through translators, said they worked for two years to get the previous owners of the structure to sell the property to PDI Capital Group. The deal was closed late last year.
He said construction is expected to begin in three months and completion date is targeted to be around June 2014.
Chang said he first visited Saipan 11 years ago and noticed no substantive change throughout these years. He said he hopes that their plans for the CNMI will be as successful as their endeavors in Korea, China, Vietnam, Canada, Belize, and South Africa, among other destinations.
Visiting Korean investors and tourists joined PDI Capital Group officials and CNMI dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday. Besides the CNMI governor, the others present were Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider, Cabinet members, Senate and House members, and Marianas Visitors Authority officials.