More than 15 years of probing options, the West End Development Corporation (WEDCO) says when it comes to Albert Row they have two options – either leave it derelict or apply to have the buildings delisted and obtain a demolition order.

In a statement released this weekend, Wedco officials said they remain “hopeful that there are people or organisations out there who will read this and come forward with workable solutions, inclusive of financial commitment”.

But if that does not happen “within a reasonable time frame” then it comes down to the last two options.

Business and Development Manager at Wedco, Joanna Cranfield said to leave Albert Row in a derelict condition is “not only unsightly but also dangerous and unhealthy”.

The only other option she said, would be “to apply to have the buildings delisted and then apply for a demolition order”.

“Whilst this is not our preferred choice it does now appear to be the only suitable and sustainable solution,” she said.

Wedco has been “searching both internally and externally for a solution which would see the restoration of Albert Row” for more than 15 years.

The statement added: “All interested parties, and there have been many, come to the same conclusion, which is that to bring this site to modern day code would cost in access of $10 million and is simply not a financially viable project.”

Ms Cranfield noted that Wedco has “been in close contact with numerous historical bodies, namely HBAC, The National Museum of Bermuda, the Bermuda National Trust and the Naval Dockyards Society in the UK, all of whom have declined to assist in taking on this project”.

“We continue to be told that we have an obligation to renovate these old buildings despite the cost and good business acumen. We have issued expressions of interest and we have made it clear in the past that we are open to unsolicited offers to renovate, upgrade and restore the buildings,” she said.

Albert Row has 16, two-bed homes arranged in four blocks and is a Grade 2 listed building. In the past, WEDCO has stipulated that any plan must include the repair and re-roofing of the buildings.

A timeline showing WEDCO’s efforts to secure the restoration:

  • 2004 – 2006 WEDCO attempted to strike a deal with Habitat for Humanity with no success
  • August 2010 – Asbestos assessment and testing undertaken by BWC on behalf of WEDCO
  • July 2013 – All tenants were vacated or relocated due to the poor condition of the buildings. WEDCO could not justify the cost of the required upgrade in order to return them back to residential inventory, which was under Rent Control with rents between $850 and $1,200
  • June 2014 – WEDCO released requests for Expression of Interest and received a proposal from a local construction company, which was unable to secure funding
  • September/October 2015 – WEDCO reached out to the Bermuda National Trust who declined to take on the restoration project due to the economic viability and staffing constraints
  • December 2015 – WEDCO’s General Manager wrote to the Royal Naval Dockyard Society in the UK asking for assistance  with funding and delivering the project but the Society did not offer financial help
  • February 2016 – A budget cost estimate was again secured and supported previous estimates that the cost of renovations would be in the region of $10 million if every unit was connected to Dockyard infrastructure and brought to current Planning code
  • February 2016 – Development Opportunity advertised and new signage was erected on site. Some proposals were received but all lacked self-financing
  • June 2018 – WEDCO received a proposal from a local construction company – looking to lease and restore the units and the local real estate company to be offered the sole agency for sale. WEDCO was interested but once again did not have the funds to finance this project
  • July 2019 – new signage erected advertising the development opportunity and new campaign instigated to attract developers
  • September/October – WEDCO announces a new appeal for developers to come forward

Part of WEDCO’s remit is preservation and restoration of buildings at Dockyard and WEDCO has spent millions of dollars on projects such as the restoration of Chicane and Glassworks buildings, Prince Alfred Terrace, which are now thriving rental apartments as well as dozens of smaller projects.