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Chamber: 91 Front Street, ‘a confidence boost for investors’

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Danielle Riviere, chief executive of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce (Photograph supplied)
Marico Thomas, Chamber of Commerce president, left, being congratulated on his appointment by Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour (Photograph supplied)

Business groups in Hamilton have thrown their support behind the planned development of office and retail space on Front Street, describing it as a vote of confidence in the island’s economy.

The Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hamilton said the demolition of ageing properties along Chancery Lane and subsequent ground-up development of a nine-storey building would create opportunities for the whole city.

The building at 91 Front Street, plans for which were reported in The Royal Gazette yesterday, will house the global headquarters for Brookfield Reinsurance and each of the company’s Bermudian-domiciled listed affiliates, and will provide space for local and overseas businesses. It will also provide outdoor gathering space for the public.

Marico Thomas, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said: “In any sector across Bermuda where there is a building that is closed, boarded up and deteriorating, it is a wonderful thing to have that building being rejuvenated.

“The knock-on effect is massively important because the City of Hamilton is a place where every tourist, member of the international business community and Bermudian considers one of the most important from a visual point of view – we don’t want to see boarded-up buildings.

“This is a great step in the right direction and it sure as heck is a confidence boost for investors. This is a clear statement of support and confidence in what Bermuda has to offer to outside and local investors who see Bermuda as a place to be and work from.

“There is the local benefit of the construction, design and decor, then the ongoing benefit of employment inside of the building. You can’t forget there will be retail on both ground floors on Front Street and Reid Street — it is an opportunity for local businesses.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring vibrancy to the city.”

Mr Thomas said the development put a focus on the need for more residential housing in Hamilton.

He added: “Bermuda needs to do more in the housing space. There is opportunity there.”

Danielle Riviere, the chief executive, added: “The Chamber of Commerce praises the Government for changing mandates to envision a new city and recognising an opportunity for investment in the city, which can include increased housing opportunities. As we change the landscape that has to be part of the consideration.”

The proposed building is nine storeys plus a mechanical penthouse, with the main roof parapet level at 136ft.

Botelho Wood Architects, which has been hired to carry out the development, said while this did not conform with the present Hamilton Plan, the Hamilton Plan 2025 would be less prescriptive on issues such as building height. However, it added: “It is our contention that sensitive design of the public realm and building are more significant than building height.”

Both Mr Thomas and Ms Riviere agreed that there may be objections to the height but that building upwards in the city was essential for growth.

Ms Riviere added: “The housing issue requires expansion and we have to go up. If the opportunity is to do that within city limits and become similar to other metropolitan areas, then that is a bonus.

“Progress can be uncomfortable but like so many things in Bermuda, if we want to grow it is necessary.

“It’s similar to what we are seeing in the city now with more outside spaces, whether it’s outdoor dining at restaurants or more entertainment space and space to interact – that is always valuable.”

A spokeswoman for the City of Hamilton said the development reflected its commitment to fostering vibrancy and growth.

She added: “The City of Hamilton wholeheartedly supports the 91 Front Street project. The potential for new businesses, shopping opportunities and other essential services aligns perfectly with our vision for a thriving city that caters to the diverse needs of our residents.

“Throughout this process, the City of Hamilton has been actively engaged in discussions with various groups and agencies responsible for the project's development. We firmly believe that this collaboration will lead to a successful outcome that benefits both our community and the broader city landscape.

“Furthermore, we view the 91 Front Street initiative as a positive step towards rejuvenating city development. We are optimistic that it could serve as a catalyst for further growth and development, marking the beginning of an exciting era for our city.”

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Published August 09, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated August 08, 2023 at 9:47 pm)

Chamber: 91 Front Street, ‘a confidence boost for investors’

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