Resort Reborn: N.O. developer transforms hurricane-damaged property into seaside paradise

Sidney D. Torres IV has found paradise. And, he’s willing to share it.

The New Orleans hotel developer and former owner of SDT Waste & Debris, has pitched his tent further south this time, in the Bahamas. And the “tent” is actually a 40-acre luxury resort — The Cove, Eleuthera — on the Bahamian island of the same name 50 miles east of Nassau.

Torres, who’s vacationed in Eleuthera for the last 20 years and bought and sold a home there, purchased The Cove for $1.8 million in July 2012. Initially, it was to be his private residence.

“I just felt like it was too special for the world not to see it,” Torres said from Eleuthera on Monday about his change of heart.

Always up for a challenge, Torres termed his new project a “rebirth” of The Cove, first built in 1969, and run down and hurricane-damaged when he signed the papers. In 10 months, Torres and crew transformed the original 24-room establishment into a top-of-the-line 120-room seaside paradise.

“I was general contractor, designer and architect on the project,” Torres explained. “My fiancee (Jennifer Savoie, also of Louisiana) was a huge support with logistics and coordinating design work.”

Overseeing every aspect of the renovation, Torres directed the construction of villas and cottages, from studio accommodations to three-bedroom villas with a private pool and staff. The resort also offers three restaurants, including one built on a jetty extending into the Caribbean; a library, infinity pool, private beaches, imported Italian Travertine marble, spa-like bathrooms, 50-inch flatscreen TVs and Wi-Fi.

The Bahamian government granted The Cove a $9.5 million duty-free exemption for everything brought into the country, a huge break for the $12 million “rebirth” project, he said.

“They (the officials) were very excited, because a project like this usually takes 10 years, and we knocked it out in 10 months,” Torres said. Sixty-four rooms were completed and occupied for grand opening weekend, while the rest will be finished this summer.

“The rooms that aren’t finished are in the back on a high ridge that overlooks the whole Caribbean, far enough away from the rest of the resort that you don’t know it’s (the construction’s) going on.”

“Oh my God, you should see the sunset right now, it’s gorgeous,” Torres said, pausing the interview.

Beautiful sunsets are just one of the pleasures visitors will find when they reach The Cove, he said.

“Every room has lots of glass, they all have water views. Every room is steps away from the beach. We planted all the grass. We have over 600 pallets of zoysia grass. We also planted 700 coconut palms. We hung hammocks in every different area.

“Trails, kayaking, snorkeling, riding a bike down the bike trail, there’s a lot of things to do with nature. You can go on the (organic) farm and pick your vegetables, make your own salad or fruit punch with what’s on the farm, so people really love that. This is a place where you can come and maybe get in touch with nature,” Torres said.

Another plus for visitors to The Cove is its proximity to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Fla., Torres said.

“You can get to Ft. Lauderdale in an hour and 45 minutes (from New Orleans) and it’s only a half-hour flight from Ft. Lauderdale, so it’s really easy for people to come.”

There are commercial and charter flights daily from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami to the island, and guests also have the option of taking The Cove’s private plane as part of an amenities package.

Among those on the private plane for The Cove’s grand opening celebration March 1 was New Orleans singer Aaron Neville, who later entertained the 500-member crowd. “It’s beautiful, wonderful,” Neville said. “I’m thinking of coming back here for a vacation … the scenery is out of sight. It’s tremendous, it’s laid back, it’s way cool.”

The celebration also featured the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, also of New Orleans, and a traditional Bahamian Junkanoo.

“We had conch salad. They were pulling conch out of the ocean and cracking conch, and we had coconuts that we cut off a tree, and made rum coconut drinks with,” Torres said. “The prime minister showed up with the minister of tourism and the minister of environment, and minister of education. Aaron Neville was great. Everyone loved his performance.”

Among those from New Orleans making appearances were Rita Benson and Terry White, along with longtime Torres friend and musician Lenny Kravitz, who bought Torres’ former house on the island; and Martha Stewart.

“It was a great party,” Torres said.

The resort owner stressed, however, that one doesn’t have to be a celebrity to visit The Cove. “Our rooms go from $198 a night to $6,000 a night, for a three-bedroom villa with your own pool, butler, Jeep and golf cart.”

There are six different room types, he added.

“We make it affordable so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy this wonderful island. I really love it. I love the people of the island. It’s very laid back. It’s your true outer island experience. There’s no stop signs, there’s no stop lights, there’s no stripes in the road.”