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Grand Atlantic: 17 years and counting

An impression of the Bermudiana Beach Resort on South Shore (Image supplied)

Dear Sir,

I’m going to tell you a story and if you like happy endings, then stop reading now.

June 2007

A special development order is granted to Atlantic Development (Bermuda) Ltd, for a 100-room hotel and adjacent 125 affordable homes to be known as the Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences. It will be built in Warwick on a privately owned 13-acre plot of land which holds derelict buildings, green space and an area zoned “woodlands”.

April 2009

Against the advice of the Bermuda Housing Corporation, Ewart Brown, the Premier, formally announces the signing of the Grand Atlantic public-private partnership for tourism, with a 100-room hotel and 125 affordable condos, to be built on the former Golden Hind site in Warwick. Dr Brown said: “The developer needs capital to build his hotel; we need land to build affordable homes. Today we have both.” He said the capital paid for land and housing would “come from money designated for affordable housing, through the Minister of Finance”.

April 2010

The Grand Atlantic affordable housing scheme is scaled back in terms of family housing. Environment minister Glenn Blakeney approves an amendment order which reduces the number of three bedroom units to less than half.

June 2010

Developer Larry Swenson/Atlantic Development (Bermuda) Ltd clarifies that the $150 million Grand Atlantic project is fully financed by Butterfield Bank, and that the Government was never going to purchase the land. He said: “We are building homes for the Bermuda Housing Corporation, and their preapproved clients will buy them. The hotel is expected to cost $80 million with the remainder spent on the housing development.”

July 2010

Ewart Brown announces the official ground-breaking of the Grand Atlantic Resort and says: “This is affordable housing, Bermuda style”. Housing minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said the Government will spend $40 million to purchase 78 units in Warwick, but would be “immediately” selling them on to clients of the Bermuda Housing Corporation.

August 2011

The project contractor, Gilbert Lopes, says there is no firm date right now for his company to break ground on the hotel though it is “definitely still planned”.

April 2012

Hundreds tour the construction site of the Grand Atlantic Resort, with officials facing tough questions from sceptical members of the public. Public works minister Michael Weeks said: “Once the economy picks up, these houses are going to be gold.” A visitor asked: “What happens if they don’t all get sold?” He said: “They’ll all get sold.”

March 2013

In the House of Assembly, former public works minister Michael Weeks says the apartments at Warwick’s Grand Atlantic complex were not sold because of One Bermuda Alliance scaremongering.

Minister Wayne Scott tells the House that in 2009, the BHC warned Cabinet against building the Grand Atlantic development in Warwick, as the housing demand was not there. He added: “The only responsible thing to do is to take a step back.”

The Grand Atlantic project is put on hold.

February 2017

The failed Grand Atlantic housing project gets a new developer. The BHC announces that it has completed its selection process and selected the hospitality developer MacLellan and Associates to move forward with the conversion of the Grand Atlantic into a hotel.

March 2018

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, formally announces the conversion of the Grand Atlantic into a new mid-market boutique hotel to be renamed the Bermudiana Beach Resort – Tapestry Collection by Hilton. The project involves the conversion of existing 78 two and three-bedroom condominiums (owned by BHC) into a full-service condo hotel with resort leisure amenities at a cost in the region of $23 million. Eventual proceeds of unit sales will allow the BHC to clear its debt on this site and have funds and resources to focus on providing housing for the people of Bermuda.

November 2018

The senator Vance Campbell, the Junior Minister of Public Works, discloses that the failed Grand Atlantic housing complex is costing taxpayers $168,400 a year to maintain in its present state.

February 2021

Minister of Finance Curtis Dickinson says there will be a $10 million guarantee to support funding necessary for the completion of the next phase of works, in reference to the Bermudiana Beach Resort.

March 2022

Original plans to build a funicular railway beach access at the Bermudiana Beach Resort site have been scrapped and new plans include a flight of stairs and elevator shaft built into the southeast cliffside of the resort.

June 2023

Public works minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, tells the House of Assembly that between the costs of the original Grand Atlantic affordable housing property and costs to convert the property into a hotel, just over $64 million has been spent on the site already. Colonel Burch estimates another $28,280,510 would be needed to complete the work. More than $92 million to date.

March 2024

David Burt, the Premier, announces the issuance of a new government guarantee: a $25 million loan on behalf of the Bermudiana Development Company Ltd, a subsidiary of BHC, for the completion of the development of the Bermudiana Beach Resort.

April 2024

After two previously failed applications, plans are back on the table to convert (absorb) a portion of Southlands National Park into an event lawn for the Bermudiana Beach Resort. Public consultation is requested.

If you are as exhausted and angry as I am after reading this, then I think my message is clear. Governments’ (plural) record in the development business is atrocious. The people should not let them anywhere near commercial real estate development, which should be 100 per cent undertaken by the private sector. The litany of failures in this and other development projects which have been attempted by various administrations is glaringly obvious and, historically, it has cost the taxpayer dearly and continues to do so. How many times do the people have to financially bend over backwards to help fix the irresponsible, financial decisions of our governments?

Regarding this latest announcement of a change of land use (ie, “land grab”) from the Department of Parks, here’s my take: just because the Government/BHC/development company did not adequately plan for this events lawn within their own existing footprint of land — an amenity that they tell us is integral for the hotel use — it should not require our public parklands to be sacrificed. If you have an ounce of respect for the future of our protected, public parklands, please voice your concerns, using this link: https://www.gov.bm/sites/default/files/2024-04/Public-Comment-Form.pdf. E-mail your completed form to: parkplaninfo@gov.bm.

The 17-year track record of this project is bad enough. Don’t make it worse by allowing this to happen.



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Published May 04, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 04, 2024 at 7:10 am)

Grand Atlantic: 17 years and counting

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