Architect hits back over hotel funicular cliff stability claims
A proposed funicular at the Bermudiana Beach Resort will not pose a threat to cliff stability, according to an architect involved in the project.
While the Bermuda National Trust and the Bermuda Audubon Society both raised concerns about the project, Colin Campbell, director and senior architect at OBM Ltd, said their fears were unfounded.
Mr Campbell wrote in a response to objections from the charities, dated June 16: “Each of the organisations do an admirable job in their own sphere of expertise, however the similar objection comments raised in all three letters suggest a co-mingling of incomplete facts and unfounded fears.
“Regrettably in 2012 similar unfounded dire warnings and predictions for the development of this site created a poisonous social media environment such that nearly ten years later, references to the same comments then, checker the ability of the new Hilton-branded hotel condo development project to succeed now.
“This is particularly unsettling as to date no other reasonable recommendation to redevelop the site has ever been proposed and there are already deposits placed for the purchase of individual units.”
Mr Campbell added: “The Bermudiana Beach Resort is a critical piece of modern tourism development, providing a much needed Bermuda three star brand vacation experience and is a vital part of the BTA's and Governments plan to redevelop the post Covid Tourism industry.”
He said the funicular was an important part of the hotel redevelopment as it would allow visitors easy access to the beach.
“Only being able to walk up and down 4 storeys of stairs to the beach is certainly a unique tourism experience but totally incompatible with modern guest expectations,” Mr Campbell added.
“Bermuda must compete with the world, no access to the beach or making the experience uncomfortable does nothing to grow our ability to attract visitors and guests.”
He said the funicular’s design would be “useful, practical and resilient” with a landing platform allowing surge tides to swirl around the base without damaging the structure itself.
“The objectors’ example of a 150-year storm of 14.9m (49ft) wave is an extraordinary exception point of reference,” he added.
“Should the South Shore be visited with such a wave, the environment and physical destruction across large sections across the island would be so complete that any effect on the structure of the funicular would barely make page three of the daily paper.”
Mr Campbell also said that concerns about the stability of the cliff face were repeatedly raised in 2012, but multiple reports from Lohse Geoconsulting confirmed the project was safe.
He said: “So long as the cliff face was maintained free of casuarina trees and their destructive roots, and the base wall was inspected and maintained the geo-soils would continue to be stable.
“In 2015 Bermudian Hydrologist Mark Rowe, similarly, submitted a letter to the planning file acknowledging the same.
“Any further comments from the objectors in this matter appear to be speculative and without basis of engineering research,” said Mr Campbell.
He added that it was hoped work on the project would begin this summer so the resort could open its doors next spring.
Mr Campbell said: “There is good reason to be confident of the success of the Bermudiana Beach Resort experience, not the least of which will be the positive experience of the Phase 2 works.”
The site was originally developed as a hybrid hotel and affordable housing development called Grand Atlantic, however the project was branded a failure when only two out of the 78 condo homes built in 2011 were sold and the hotel was never built.
Government confirmed in April 2014 that it had signed a contract to “upgrade and reposition” the complex as a tourism site with MacLellan & Associates, a leading Caribbean tourism firm, at the helm.
Plans to erect a funicular at the site as part of the second phase of the redevelopment of the site were approved, but the approval lapsed and the developers this year submitted a new application.
Both the BNT and the BAS filed objection to the application however.
The BNT said the project went against the Bermuda Plan 2018 and raised concerns that the funicular would become a “rusting eyesore” if it broke down.
The BAS meanwhile said it was worried the instillation of the funicular would accelerate the erosion of the cliff face and called for more information on the cliff’s stability.