Fairmont Southampton work could begin in February
The redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton could begin as early as February, construction industry sources have told The Royal Gazette.
And while the original plan was to shutter the property for 18 months, it is becoming clear that Bermuda will be without its once flagship hotel for much longer.
With the October 2020 closure, all told, it could be offline for almost three-and-a-half years.
The potential for a first-quarter start for construction is tempered by what is not known about a project that was originally due to be completed by April 2022 — and now, hopefully, will at least be fully engaged in redevelopment by then.
This would presuppose that financing is in place for the project, although there has been no official word.
The extended closure means that a large chunk of Bermuda’s hotel beds may not come online until sometime in the 2024 tourism season.
Bermuda will have suffered years of debilitating losses by then in terms of foreign exchange earnings, employment income, government revenue and social stability.
The redevelopment is expected to be useful to the construction industry in an economy hit so hard by the pandemic.
The latest GDP figures of the 2020 calendar year, just released by the Government, revealed some dire figures — and an economy that had shrunk by an unprecedented 6.9 per cent.
The Annual Gross Domestic Product 2020 Highlights had little, if any, highlights in it.
And in terms of construction, the report said, the sector had shrunk 24.4 per cent with output down $87 million or 17.4 per cent.
But Simon Tully, president of the Construction Association of Bermuda, said that while lockdowns and other closures hurt all parts of the economy last year, high-end residential developments have kept construction workers employed.
He conceded surprise by the official figures.
Government statisticians attributed the decline mostly to “restrictions on construction activity during the second quarter of 2020 related to mitigation efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 in Bermuda”.
Mr Tully said: “The commercial work really has not been there. But there is a lot of high-end residential work going on.”
He said that the construction year 2019 was good and 2020 was also surprisingly good.
Mr Tully confirmed that he too had heard that the Fairmont Southampton project was slated to start early next year.
He said: “I think it is going to start in February. There is no doubt it has been delayed. It’s going to take two years of work because they have a lot of stuff they have to do up there. It will end up being a two-year project.
“I’m convinced that they will iron out the details and this will happen, at least some time in the first few months of the year. But I have heard February.
“There is not a lot of commercial work right now but the high-end residential work has kept people busy.
“The Riddell’s Bay project is continuing and the units there are selling well. And that involves a lot of small, Bermudian companies. There are plumbers, electricians, the AV people. So a lot of those small contractors are swamped, doing really well.
“There is a lot of work going on in Tucker's Town. You just have to drive around to see that.
“Cambridge Beaches has been sold and we expect some work up there. And things are happening at Ariel Sands.
“The workforce in the industry is doing well. I don’t know anybody who has been laying people off in construction.
“But we expect the hotel project to come on line.
“It has to go forward. We can’t have it not go forward because it is the major hotel on the island. So they have to find a way of making it work.”
Questions put to the Government were not answered by press time.