Grand Atlantic housing project may be completed without BHC
Developer Gilbert Lopes plans to build and sell the final housing units on the Grand Atlantic site himself — potentially setting him in competition with completed units on the site.
However Mr Lopes said this week that he is applying to change the plans for the final phase of the project to avoid competing with the existing units.
The Grand Atlantic Housing Project in Warwick was intended to contain 125 affordable housing units.
A total of 51 units have been completed and 100 percent financing is being offered, but no units have been sold. Government has said that five people have been approved to purchase the units, and another 15 are being processed.
The Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC) had agreed to purchase the first 78 units built as part of the 125-unit project, and had the option to purchase the final 47, but have declined.
Speaking this week, Mr Lopes said he is applying to build 52 single-bedroom units on the site rather than the 47 two and three-bedroom units that were planned for the final phase of the project.
Im taking it to a different level and putting in 52 one-bedroom units so Im not in direct competition, he said.
There are not many single bedroom units for sale outside of Hamilton, and the cost for those is around $500,000, $600,000. These one-bedroom units will be starting at around $300,000.
Its something thats never been done before and its something I believe will work.
Asked about the sales of the BHC units, Mr Lopes said: The reason they are not selling is they are not doing any marketing. You cant sell without marketing.
If he is given approval to build the 52 units he is proposing, he would make sure a lack of marketing would not be a problem.
The move would mark another change for the project, which was first announced in 2007 as a 220-room hotel on the site of the former Golden Hind resort in Warwick.
The-then Premier Ewart Brown announced the Grand Atlantic project for the site two years later, which he said would include a 100-room hotel, along with 125 affordable housing units.
Dr Brown explained that the project would use part of Governments budget for affordable housing as capital for the developer in an investment partnership, but as part of the agreement the developer must built the 125 housing units.
The project was to include 74 three-bedroom units and 51 two-bedroom units, but that figure was later changed to 30 three-bedroom units and 95 two-bedroom units.
Mr Lopes explained that the BHC had agreed to purchase the first 78 units and had the option to purchase the final 47 units, but had to make their intentions known before the completion of phase two.
Phase two of the project was completed in May, but Mr Lopes said he has received no written notice that the BHC was going to purchase the final units.
It was their option to take or not take, Mr Lopes said. Basically, if they havent accepted it by saying yes, they are not taking it.
A spokesman for the BHC has confirmed that they have declined the option to purchase the final batch of housing units.
Even without the BHC involved, Mr Lopes said he expects work on the site will continue, hopefully leading to the eventual construction of the hotel development.
If the 52 one-bedroom units are coming, thats where the hotel links in, Mr Lopes said. Thats still being talked about and theres still a plan for it.
Responding to the news, Stuart Hayward, Chairman of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) praised Government for cutting our (the taxpayers) losses by not investing in the final phase of the project.
However, he added: The cessation of BHC development should not be positioned as an opportunity for private development.
As this development gives every indication that it is no longer a tourism development, it no longer merits the Ministerial privileges and lax oversight that attends an SDO.
So far, this development has been a visual, environmental and economic disaster and the cessation of BHC engagement should be seized as an opportunity to preserve this highly valuable piece of South Shore.
Mr Hayward stressed that no comprehensive environmental impact assessment was carried out before the 2007 SDO for the site was granted, allowing it to move ahead with little official scrutiny.
The SDO was granted in 2007 without even a schematic drawing and topographical survey, he said. There was no landscaping scheme presented in 2007.
Had the Government followed its mandate and conducted open and consultative decision-making, BEST is reasonably sure this development would not have been approved, not by the public, not by the Development Applications Board and consequently not by the Minister.
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