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Meeting on North East Hamilton redevelopment gets heated

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Meka Steede, left, and Shawn Brown, of the BEDC, talk to North East Hamilton stakeholders about the Government’s plans to redevelop the area (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

At a BEDC meeting on North East Hamilton redevelopment, area stakeholders expressed fear and mistrust, with a third-generation property owner questioning the sincerity of the plan.

“We see Bermuda being sold on Front Street or in the housing community,” she said. “We see it being taken from us. Now you are coming ‘back of town’ and talking about how we can develop some things, come talk, come talk, but it does not feel genuine.”

She said her family and many others had been holding down the neighbourhood for a long time.

“I don’t feel the conversation is meeting where people are at,” she said.

Another area resident expressed concern about the Government opening the door for international purchasers, exempt companies and local companies bidding for properties in the EEZ. He said an exempt company was always going to outbid the man on the street.

The meeting, which ran twice as long as expected, was held to inform the public about the Government’s Uptown Development Authority, Approved Residential Scheme and the North East Hamilton Plan 2022.

The BEDC attempted to allay concerns. Speaking before a crowd of about 60, chartered surveyor Shawn Brown said: “The Government is not looking to bulldoze people’s homes to build large condominiums. The intent is not to displace people or business owners in the area.”

The BEDC said no one would be pressuring people to sell their property, or forcibly taking it from them.

At a BEDC meeting on Tuesday, North East Hamilton stakeholders expressed concerns about plans to redevelop the area (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

“We are looking mostly at vacant or derelict properties that would facilitate a sizeable development,” Mr Brown said.

As an example, he said, the burnt-out building on the Leopard’s Club property on Brunswick Street would be an ideal site for redevelopment.

The BEDC also gave assurances that no one could force people in the neighbourhood to sell their properties, or forcibly take property from them for redevelopment.

Mr Brown said there were only a handful of sites in the area that lent themselves to development, and most were less than an acre in size.

“People will not be knocking on the door asking you to sell, sell, sell,” he said. “The only way that could happen is if an area was identified and all the owners came together to say, ‘We want to consolidate our lots’.”

Mr Brown said they are seeing some progress on the plan.

“Around the corner, two properties were purchased and are being refurbished,” Mr Brown said. “Both are commercial properties. Around the other corner there is a plan to build an open-plan office space. There is activity in the area. Change is coming.”

Mr Brown said whatever is developed has to retain its historical characteristics.

“It is not going to be an instance where you will knock down a Georgian-style home and build a skyscraper,” Mr Brown said.

Several people at the meeting expressed interest in creating area co-operatives to buy or redevelop surrounding properties rather than allow them to be bought or redeveloped by outsiders.

Some people at the meeting expressed support for the Government’s plan, saying they were benefiting from it. One man was in the process of acquiring a property in the neighbourhood.

“The BEDC and Uptown Development Authority have been instrumental in helping us identify and work through the paperwork of getting a property,” he said.

He was looking at creating a mixed-use building, but said he needed warehouse space.

“This could help to anchor my family to the area for the next 50 to 100 years,” he said.

Businesses that start up in or relocate to the BEDC’s North East Hamilton Economic Empowerment Zone, are eligible for perks such as payroll tax concessions, customs duty deferments and loan guarantees from the BEDC.

What do you think about North East Hamilton redevelopment? E-mail jmhardy@royalgazette.com

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Published June 15, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated June 15, 2023 at 8:00 am)

Meeting on North East Hamilton redevelopment gets heated

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