Now that the special development order for the Fairmont Southampton Hotel has been approved by the Minister of Home Affairs, the big question now is when will the development actually begin?

The SDO, which facilitates the construction of up to 250 tourism and residential units, has been referred to as the largest construction project in Bermuda’s history.

The SDO was granted with some conditions attached, related to the building and environmental measures.

Speaking at news conference to make the announcement yesterday, the Minister stressed that his decision today, which he said came after “much consideration”.

Flanked by Premier, David Burt and Government members, he also stressed that reopening the hotel is the first priority.

But when that would actually be, remains to be seen.

To date, Westend Properties, owners of the site, has not specified a timeline, apart from saying they are “very much looking forward to moving ahead on the Southampton project”.

“We are committed to fulfilling the conditions associated with the granting of the SDO, including ensuring that the reopening of the hotel is our foremost priority,” the company said.

When asked, the Mr Roban said: “We know based on what we’ve heard so far, the financing that has been arranged fully finances this actual development for its duration.

“Thats one thing we know.

“But certainly, the public information has been that this is a fully financed development from where it is now and when it will start to its conclusion.“

The Minister also stated that an estimate by PricewaterhouseCoopers that the redevelopment would have an economic impact of $1.4 billion — with roughly $300 million attributable to job creation and $1.1 billion to “the broader impact of the demand for local services”.

In the grand scheme of things, he said the project would also deliver “desperately needed tourism beds” and “at least 100 long-term construction jobs”, along with “at least 57 permanent jobs for hospitality”.

The three phases of the project will start with the Turtle Hill site and golf tourism units, followed by villas, and residential South Road town homes for phase three.

But the Minister said no units will be occupied until the hotel is refurbished and reopened.

The SDO requires the completion of several conditions for conservation, improvements to the Railway Trail, and fencing around an historic protection area on Turtle Hill.

The first condition of the SDO will set out the duration of the planning permission being granted, which will broadly align with the phasing provided in the SDO submission, namely:

  • Phase 1: Turtle Hill and ‘Golf’ tourism units
  • Phase 2: Residential ‘Hilltop Villas’ and ‘GSL Villas’
  • Phase 3: Residential ‘South Road Town Homes’

“This condition will also stipulate that no units will be occupied (i.e., a Certificate of Completion and Occupancy will not be issued for any units) until the Hotel has been fully refurbished and reopened.

“Before any planning application is submitted, the SDO will require completion of the following:

  • Confirmation of all Protected Conservation Areas by the Minister of Home Affairs
  • The submission and approval of an outline Conservation Management Plan [CMP] for the entire site, inclusive of timescales for implementation and subsequent detailed CMPs
  • Improvements to the Railway Trail, namely the replacement of an existing staircase with a ramp, the installation of lighting and the removal of invasive species
  • The installation of protective fencing around the Historic Protection Area on Turtle Hill
  • The installation of 10 additional bluebird boxes within the application site

The Minister noted that “conservation of open spaces is not successful by just leaving the land alone, as some might argue“.

“It comes with a carefully laid out plan with objectives clearly set, environment enhancements and, ultimately, sustainable preservation,“ he said.

The first planning application to be submitted will need to include details pertaining to the entire site in respect of the following:

  • Full details of the type of tourism accommodation to be provided, including whether units could be used as residences for part of each year
  • A Design and Access Statement – inclusive of internal vehicular and pedestrian access arrangements to ensure safe movement within the site and public realm designs
  • A Transport Statement and Travel Plan – to promote sustainable methods of transportation and identify measures to reduce trips by private car
  • A revised outline parking plan reducing the number of car parking spaces to a practical minimum and identifying the spaces of the northern parking area, which would be continually available to any member of the public
  • A Strategic Energy Statement – setting out the minimum amount of renewable energy which would be generated within each Phase, the infrastructure which would be installed to achieve this value and measures to reduce energy consumption and impacts on the grid.\A strategic Sewage, Water and Wastewater Management Plan – including full details of existing and proposed infrastructure, the new Wastewater Treatment Plant, decommission and removal of the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant and details of the supply of fresh water to the site inclusive of an in-principle agreement with Bermuda Waterworks to supply the entire site
  • A Sustainable Drainage Strategy – including measures to mitigate run-off, reducing the use of impermeable surfacing and incorporating sustainable measures of flood risk mitigation
  • A Strategic Waste Management Plan – setting out details for the disposal of trash from the site, including the size and approximate location of containers, bin storage areas, routes for vehicles, timetables for collection and the written approval of the company or Government department who would be responsible for collection
  • A desk-based Archaeological Assessment which details any archaeological site investigations which may be required together with methodologies to avoid disturbance of, or the proper removal or recording of, any notable artefacts which may be present within any development areas
  • A Strategic Construction Environmental Management Plan
  • A structural assessment of the nearest properties to the site on Fairmont Drive before and after the construction of Phase 1 to detect impacts from vibration is to be carried out at the expense of the developer
  • A Public Engagement Strategy – identifying how the local community will be kept updated on the project and informed when development is due to take place and how neighbours can arrange for the developer to arrange for any repairs or cleaning of their property if affected by construction works
Photo: Jeroen/Foursquare

The public will be able to review the complete list of conditions online at the Department of Planning once the SDO has been drafted and gazetted.

In closing, Mr Roban said: “We need to plan ahead for a more vibrant future.

“This SDO will add many desperately needed tourism beds to our inventory, create 100 long-term construction jobs following the Hotel’s reopening, and provide $1.4 Billion of economic impact, which will benefit future generations.”