A vote of confidence in Bermuda

  • Ariel Sands groundbreaking

  • Michael Douglas addresses the media concerning the redevelopment of Ariel Sands, with Premier Michael Dunkley looking on  (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

    Michael Douglas addresses the media concerning the redevelopment of Ariel Sands, with Premier Michael Dunkley looking on (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

  • Michael Douglas, in a photograph he posted on Facebook in April, when he announced the redevelopment of the Ariel Sands resort in Smith’s

    Michael Douglas, in a photograph he posted on Facebook in April, when he announced the redevelopment of the Ariel Sands resort in Smith’s

New committee will aid future development

Michael Dunkley was at yesterday’s groundbreaking along with Minister of Tourism Shawn Crockwell, Minister of Economic Development Grant Gibbons and Minister of Immigration Michael Fahy.

During an earlier speech, the Premier said that the formation of the Economic Development Committee would help further development on the Island.

He said: “That is one of the reasons why, with key cabinet ministers, we formed the Economic Development Committee because we wanted to make sure that as we worked out of the tremendous economic challenges we had we could fast track these projects and listen to the owners and investment managers and break down the barriers that could impede development.”

Hollywood actor Michael Douglas has promised that Bermudians will continue to be instrumental to the success of his hotel Ariel Sands after it opens its doors for business.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette after ground was broken on the $85 million redevelopment project yesterday morning, the part-owner said that while he plans to bring in a high quality, international management team to open the hotel, their skills will be passed on to Bermudians who will eventually take on more and more responsibilities.

Mr Douglas said: “We are looking for a top Swiss/German Hotel management type manager who will bring in a small team who will then work with our Bermudian staff. We are looking for a high quality existence and Bermudians will continue to take over more and more of the responsibilities.”

The team that has been pulled together for the redevelopment stage is largely Bermudian with Somers Management responsible for coordinating the project and Onsite Engineering Services and Quarterly Architects creating plans designed to have a low environmental impact. The developer is New York-based Olympic Property Partners led by Seth Weinstein who has been visiting the Island for 45 years.

The luxury resort will consist of 85 hotel keys located in 33 cottages and six suites and aims to “embrace the romance, sophistication and unique architectural traditions of Bermuda”. The majority of existing buildings on site will be demolished and rebuilt from scratch.

There will be a new arrival building and club house, a fine dining restaurant, spa, salon and gym. The beach house will offer informal dining overlooking the salt water pools and a new fresh water pool.

Mr Douglas said his decision to go ahead with the redevelopment, which has been delayed for various reasons since it closed its doors in 2008, marked a vote of confidence in Bermuda’s economy as well as in the current Government and the developer.

Asked why he decided to go ahead with the project at this time, he said: “It’s been a pretty long haul trying to get the right formula. I don’t need to tell you about all the stops and starts of the hotel’s progress — it is a combination of events that have allowed it to happen now largely attributed to Seth and Olympic Properties and the current government.

“At this time, the Government has made it more amenable to resolve certain issues but there was no loss of trying, and like a lot of other projects we found a situation together. Seth has been instrumental in designing a plan that maintains the spirit and look of the old Ariel Sands.

“Different parties have tried in the past but there does seem to be some momentum now. I think the Premier has a great team and he delegates his team well.

“One of the difficulties here has been to be in office and have another political fight at your backside — you are having to deal with what’s going on behind you as well as trying to move forward, but now we have momentum. Yes, it is a vote of confidence for the economy in Bermuda.”

The hotel will also be managed as an independent boutique hotel allowing cottages and suites to be sold to international and Bermudian owners who can then offer the rooms to the public through the management company.

The Ariel Sands property has been in Mr Douglas’s family since the 1840s and Dill family members began running it as Ariel Sands Beach Club in 1954. His mother, Diana Dill, is Bermudian and the Dill family dates its lineage on the Island back to 1630.

Mr Douglas said that the hotel will “capture the essence and spirit of the original hotel but with all the new bells and whistles such as environmentally friendly practices and smart rooms”.

He added: “It feels wonderful, it feels regenerative like there is a sense of immortality and continuity of the generations. It was wonderful to be able to call my mother yesterday and tell her that we have cleaned up her old own cottage — Sea Change [now being used for offices]. It clearly goes beyond being motivated as an economic investment. I have learned through mistakes and I feel very optimistic at this time that we have the right formula to make this work.”

Asked whether he and his family would be spending more time in Bermuda with the reopening of the hotel, Mr Douglas said: “Certainly, following this project through I will be here, I have a large family I can’t see enough of so we are here a lot.”

It is hoped that the project will take about two years to complete.

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Published Nov 13, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 13, 2014 at 8:43 am)

A vote of confidence in Bermuda

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