But Johnson, who in his 20s, overcame near total paralysis and went on to build a series of lucrative real estate businesses, is an utterly undaunted individual. He builds with his own cash. No debt. No partners. He makes a total personal investment, which results in complete control.
Not only was Oil Nut Bay already well underway, but the marina and clubhouse he’d built on the adjacent site had become the new Caribbean location for the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS). Indeed, in the still cautious spring of 2012, YCCS Marina Virgin Gorda had emerged as a flourishing new hub of superyacht activity, and it was Johnson who had hewn it straight out of the virgin island itself. Johnson’s personal yacht, the 40m, 309gt Westport motoryacht, aptly named Resolute has made the marina its new home. When we spoke again recently, Johnson had sold nearly half the lots. But why does a man who already owns his own private island feel so strongly about building a community development?
“My daughter doesn’t want to go to the private island we own because there’s no friends to see and things for her to do,” Johnson tells me. “So as a developer of residential communities over the past thirty years, I asked myself, ‘How do you get the effect of a private island, but with the ability to connect with other people?’ Oil Nut Bay is my answer to that question.”
Built on a principle of privacy and community combined, Oil Nut Bay bears a resemblance to its spiritual precedent, Mustique. But unlike Mustique, the homes and estates of Oil Nut Bay conform to a strict environmental code that underlies Johnson’s belief in the feeling of the place itself. He wants Oil Nut Bay to, as much as is possible in a billion-dollar development on an otherwise deserted tropical peninsula, work in harmony with its surroundings. He tells me that he had spent ten years looking for where he could spend the rest of his life; somewhere he could create both a superyacht marina and a generational family community that was built in harmony with the land. “We went from the Bahamas to the Grenadines, country by country, but continued to come back to the BVI. And then we found Oil Nut Bay,” says Johnson.
The far eastern end of Virgin Gorda is blessed with a dramatic landscape, with the tranquil sandy beach of the bay itself opening to Eustatia Sound and, in the distance Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Up from the beach, the island’s rocky ridges punctuate the thick green vegetation, and on to the south-east, ocean-facing side, the landscape is dominated by cliffs and rugged outcrops of the island’s distinctive red rock.
Lawrence J Oswald, COO of Pure Eco Environmental Solutions, was Johnson’s environmental guru on the design of Oil Nut Bay. The two had worked together on another of Victor International’s major developments, Bay Harbor, Michigan. He had a few simple rules: don’t disturb the natural features; minimise the visual impact of the development from the ocean; repair some of the naturally occurring problems; and do things to make Oil Nut Bay better than when it was discovered. “I’ve done forty-three developments in my thirty years, and I’ve learned that less is better,” Johnson says. “Building something outstanding, with architectural excellence in harmony with the land that maintains space and privacy is the key.”
but continued to come back to the BVI. And then we found Oil Nut Bay.”
- David V Johnson
Today, the beach club, yacht club, marina and full site infrastructure is built and operational. Now Johnson’s team is finishing the rest of the social elements: the fitness centre, the Nut House kids’ club. There are 88 sites across the 400 acres, ranging from 0.32 to 18 acres and divided into eight neighbourhoods. Forty-six properties remain on the market. There are seven finished villas with six under construction and another six in the design and engineering phase.
The full picture of Oil Nut Bay is astonishing. Aside from the planning and development of the full site, the programme includes private chefs, kiteboarding, windsurfing, scuba diving, sport fishing and horseback riding on one of five Paso Fino horses Johnson and his wife imported to the Biras Creek Resort, next door, which they also own. It’s 90 miles to St Barths if owners or guests want to go for the day and come back. YCCS is planning a yachting programme to teach sailing. The horizon for the development goes on and on.
“We’ve got everything we need for one hundred years of long-term stability here,” says Johnson. “We give people the feeling they own their own private island, and we’ll take care of all the stuff they don’t want to worry about.
Subscribers can find the full article and interview with David V Johnson in Issue 11 here.