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St George’s to get a hotel – at long last

The old Club Med site in st Georges Thursday has been done with it( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

After a decade of waiting, at 1am on Saturday, July 18, Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, tabled the St George’s Resort Act 2015 in the House of Assembly.

This was a momentous and historic occasion that will result in the Desarrollos Group redeveloping a property that has lain abandoned for almost 30 years.

The people of St George’s, disappointed so many times in the past, now have a bright and promising future to look forward to.

On August 17, there will be a special sitting of the House of Assembly to debate the St George’s Resort Act 2015 (the Act).

The Act authorises the leasing of land to the developer and grants, subject to conditions, rights, leases, concessions, permissions and approvals necessary to develop the resort on land lying to the south side of St Catherine’s Point. Much work has been done by the Bermuda Government, the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Desarrollos Group and other stakeholders to finalise the master development agreement. As Mr Crockwell said in the House when tabling the Act, “this is a group that is more than capable of developing a world-class, full-service resort and we are very excited to have them as our partners”.

The Desarrollos Group, founded in 1997, have developed commercial, residential and hospitality real estate projects in Latin America and the Caribbean region, including the award-winning Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, the Marriott and Renaissance Hotels in Caracas, Venezuela, a Marriott that is under construction in Bonaire, and a Ritz-Carlton to be developed in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

The selection of Desarrollos resulted from a thorough request for proposal process that had the stated objective “to provide a high-quality tourism development that will complement the St George’s Unesco World Heritage Site designation and accentuate the historical significance of the area while providing economic opportunities for the people of St George’s and Bermuda”. More than a dozen international development and investment companies expressed interest, which resulted in five written submissions being received by the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport by the March 31, 2014 deadline. Each proposal was thoroughly reviewed and evaluated with two shortlisted finalists who were invited to make oral presentations to the Economic Development Committee.

Desarrollos emerged as the eventual winners in part owing to their desire and enthusiasm for the development opportunity and in part to their proven ability to deliver projects.

The $120 million resort will be a significant contributor to the revitalisation of our tourism industry, the St George’s community and Bermuda as a whole.

We hope ground will be broken this year. The project will not only provide hundreds of jobs for Bermudians in the construction and operation of the facility, but also has the potential to be the catalyst for other developments, creating further employment opportunities as we work to reinvent our tourism industry.

Physically, the new facility includes a 122-room hotel, up to 90 condominiums and six estate residences. In addition, the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones-designed St George’s golf course will be fully renovated.

Other amenities will include a spa and fitness centre, meeting rooms, swimming pools, a pool bar and grill, and other speciality restaurants and, subject to the granting of a licence by the independent Gaming Commission, a casino. This world-class resort facility will be managed by the top luxury brand St Regis, Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

The One Bermuda Alliance government promised to revitalise St George’s and get a resort built. These promises are moving closer to bearing fruit that will benefit not only the East End, but all Bermudians. The future for tourism is brighter. The future for Bermuda is brighter.

• Vic Ball is a government senator and the Junior Minister of Tourism Development and Transport