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Government admits arbitration centre has ‘not progressed as swiftly as we would have liked’

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Veteran union leader Ottiwell Simmons, second left, was joined by David Burt, the Premier, left, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, and representatives of Milhouse Engineering and Construction in breaking ground on the eponymous Ottiwell Simmons International Arbitration Centre in July 2020 (File photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

Construction will not start on a planned arbitration centre until analysis is completed to check if its operations will cover development costs, a government spokesman said.

Ground was broken and a press conference held in Hamilton at the site of the proposed building in July 2020.

But the Government admitted this week that progress was slower than it would have liked.

A five-storey facility, to be named the Ottiwell A Simmons International Arbitration Centre, was proposed earlier as a public-private partnership with Chicago-based Milhouse Engineering and Construction.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said in August that he expected “modifications” to what was originally announced for the site on the corner of Reid Street and Parliament Street.

He added: “Our challenge is the size of the lot, and being able to occupy the building and provide funding to pay back the development.

“We are likely to put some other people in there – other government departments.”

The site where the Ottiwell A. Simmons International Arbitration Centre is expected to be built (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A government spokesman said this week: “This has not progressed as swiftly as we would have liked, however, the developer is still interested in proceeding and options for government departments that would be a good fit with the arbitration centre are still being considered.”

He added: “The small footprint of the site requires a sustainable model to ensure the building’s uses repay the developer.

“That analysis must be satisfactorily completed before any construction is commenced.”

Colonel Burch said in July 2020 that during talks about a master water and sewage plan for Bermuda “it became evident” that Milhouse could provide advice on other capital projects.

He added: “One such project was the development of the Ottiwell A Simmons Arbitration Centre, which Milhouse proposed as a public-private partnership at no cost to the Government.”

The minister said in March last year that a proposal on the project awaiting approval from the Minister of Finance was for a “rent-to-buy” scheme.

He added: “The developer will pay and build the building and the Government will rent it back over a number of years in order for them to get their money back.”

The Royal Gazette asked for an update about the facility after Cayman International Mediation and Arbitration Centre announced a joint venture with Canada’s Arbitration Place to run arbitration and mediation services at a suite in George Town, Grand Cayman.

Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Minister of Works and Engineering and Tourism, said last month: “They hate to hear that Cayman is being compared to Bermuda, but once again Cayman continues to steal our lunch because they understand that their people are important.”

Wilbur Milhouse III, the chairman and chief executive of Milhouse, said in 2020 that the arbitration centre project would create jobs and contracting opportunities “for all of Bermuda’s people”.

He was contacted yesterday for comment but none was received by press time

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Published November 03, 2022 at 7:42 am (Updated November 03, 2022 at 7:42 am)

Government admits arbitration centre has ‘not progressed as swiftly as we would have liked’

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