Hotel developer commits to respect natural beauty of site
The developer of the Fairmont Southampton insisted today that it is “committed to respecting” the site’s natural beauty as it released new images to show how proposed buildings could look in relation to the rest of the resort.
Westend Properties highlighted that the latest illustrations do not reflect the finalised design of the units.
In an advertisement in The Royal Gazette today, the company, which is an affiliate of the Miami-based investment firm Gencom, said: “Many Bermudians are concerned about the visual impact the proposed tourism and residential units will have.
“We understand those concerns.
“We are committed to respecting the natural beauty of this picturesque site and ensuring that it continues to appeal to locals and tourists alike.”
It added that images which appeared earlier in the Gazette — taken directly from Westend’s submission in its request for a special development order — were prepared solely in support of that application, which seeks to add up to 114 tourism and 147 residential units to the resort.
The advert said: “They do not represent how the buildings will actually look or how they will be integrated into the existing Fairmont Southampton property.
“The white blocks as shown are merely meant to be placeholders.
“In addition, the Department of Planning requested that we remove most of the vegetation from the drawings for the SDO submission.”
The Gazette has reported — in articles accompanied by images used in the official SDO request — that a letter included in the documents to the planning department said detailed design of the units “has not been attempted at this time, and thus the proposal is restricted to high-level conceptual design”; or that the developer said the drawings “in no way represent how we envisage incorporating the proposed tourism and residential units”.
Today’s advert said that the latest images offered “a truer representation of how the buildings will fit into the overall property and reflect how much open and recreational space will be retained”.
It explained: “Sketches have been prepared to show the setting of the buildings in relation to the overall resort property.
“They do not reflect the ultimate architecture of the units, which will be thoughtfully designed in consultation with a Bermudian architect, with beautiful landscaping added.”
It told readers that Westend and its investment partners were eco-conscious and “committed to doing everything possible to reduce the project’s carbon footprint”.
The advert said 65 per cent of the site’s green space would be retained through the golf course and recreational areas.
It added that there would be a “methodical and phased approach” to building.
The advert said: “Construction of the units will only begin when the majority are pre-sold.”
It explained: “To conserve as much green space as possible, we will be building up instead of out.
“While this means that some of the proposed buildings will be six storeys, none will be higher than the nine-storey hotel itself.
“We will be mindful in making sure the buildings blend as seamlessly as possible with their surroundings.
“The units will be thoughtfully designed by a world-class architect and integrated into the landscape for a cohesive look and feel.
“This will be done in consultation with a Bermudian architect.
“Like you, we want the end result to be beautiful and we will leverage our extensive experience to make sure this development is a success.”
The company said that the proposed properties would be a mixture of two, three and four-bedroom units and would be “accommodations that are currently not available and that will be perfect for families and larger groups”.
It added: “Of the 261 units, 114 are planned to be built in the first phase and will be offered as part of the hotel rental programme, while 147 are planned to be sold as residential units in later phases.
“The development will take place over three phases and the first phase of tourism units will not be opened or occupied prior to the completion and reopening of the hotel.
“Construction of each phase will not commence until it is deemed that there is sufficient demand for the proposed units as evidenced through pre-sales.
“The second and third phases of the development will follow in due course.
“We anticipate that the first phase of the development — which will include the construction of the Turtle Hill and golf tourism units — will take approximately four to five years.”
In its advert, Westend Properties assured readers that the Turtle Hill Golf Club will continue to have 18 holes.
It said: “In 2020, it was voted the World’s Best Par 3 Course by the World Golf Awards; we will ensure it retains its stature.
“As part of the revamp of Fairmont Southampton’s property, there will be some minor configuration changes to the course, though the majority of it will remain as is:
• Ten of the holes will be unchanged
• Six of the holes will be slightly modified with new tees and/or greens and as a result will be shortened by approximately 25 to 50 yards
• Two new holes will be created, with new tees and greens.
“Westend and our investment partners are beyond pleased to be working on this exciting project.
“We have tremendous faith in Bermuda and the untapped potential of the Fairmont Southampton property.
“The island has so much to offer, and we look forward to sharing its breathtaking beauty and unmatched hospitality with the rest of the world through the redevelopment of this first-class destination resort.”
Westend Properties said extensive renovations to the hotel and beach club alone will cost more than $200 million.
The advert added that planned upgrades included a revitalised lobby that promised to be “a game-changer with a new reception desk, bellman’s area, stone flooring, carpet and furniture, as well as upgraded millwork”.
It said: “The Beach Club will be updated to include a new resort-style pool, private cabanas, food and beverage service and a spacious events lawn, as well as new beachfront loungers, activities space and water sports centre.
“There will also be new bathrooms, change huts and a beachside dive shop centre.
“The brand new Beach Club Bar & Grille will replace the existing burger bar structure and will feature a more sophisticated menu and other offerings.
“The Ocean Club will be fully renovated and converted to be used primarily as an event space with connected indoor and outdoor spaces to accommodate larger weddings and group functions.
“Upgrades will include full kitchen modifications, an enlarged bar area spilling out onto the deck, and new interior and exterior furnishings.
“The completion of the hotel renovations is Westend’s top priority.
“Construction on the guest rooms is projected to begin in the next couple of months, with work on the Beach Club expected to be under way during the summer of 2023.”
Environmental groups have voiced opposition to elements of the proposed SDO and were said to be “bombarded by a very outraged public” after it was made public.
A petition highlighting concerns against the plans has attracted more than 3,500 signatures.
Opponents are expected to present it at the Cabinet Office on Friday.
They will meet at Lagoon Drive, South Road, Paget — opposite the Camden entrance of the Botanical Gardens — at 9.30am on April 28 to walk to the Front Street building.
The Bermuda Industrial Union has backed the Fairmont Southampton development plans, saying the island’s economic recovery will stall if the hotel remains shut.
Former premier Sir John Swan also endorsed the project and said it “would afford units which are desperately needed to accommodate both our visitors and residents alike”.
• UPDATE: This article has been updated with revised, final details for a planned march on Friday, April 28.
• To see the advertisement in its entirety, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.