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BHC: 16 proposals for Grand Atlantic complex

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Open house at the Grand Atlantic Development Saturday ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

Government has received 16 proposals from local and overseas potential investors looking to take over the Grand Atlantic development.In an exclusive interview with The Royal Gazette, Bermuda Housing Corporation General Manager Barrett Dill said the response to date has been more than favourable. And the deadline to respond to the request for information has been extended to May 23.The proposals range from transforming the apartment complex into tourist accommodations, to a residential complex for senior citizens plus other options.The deadline was extended to allow sufficient time for potential developers to submit plans which will be dealt with by the Office of Procurement.Said Major Dill: “I’m confident that by the end of this year we will have a clear direction as to what the best use for the Grand Atlantic Development will be.“We met on site with local representatives, some were representing the overseas investors on April 17 and there were representatives, local and foreign, who were very keen on viewing the site.“They asked very interesting questions to show that they were very informed of the development and they were keen to come up with different ideas for the best use of the site for future development.“There were 14 representatives there on that day and so far we have 16 submissions.“The deadline is May 23 and by then we will open up the tendering process to see exactly what type of ideas and proposals are by potential investors,” he said.Asked is a development for seniors would be hampered by the fact that the complex has no elevators, he replied: “The Project Manager said it would not be a problem to install elevators because of the way the stair courts are structured so it’s not an impediment.”Community and Cultural Development Minister Wayne Scott issued the request for information in March in a bid to recoup the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the failed project.At that time he said: “The fact of the matter is that this has cost the taxpayer upwards of $40 million.“We have a depressed real estate market, we have a depressed economy, we have a bank note on some of these outstanding funds that this year will cost us $1.6 million just on interest. It’s not really something that we can afford.”He also noted that the $700,00 price tag attached to each of the 78 units at the South Shore Warwick complex “was not low-income housing which was the initial intent”.To date, only one apartment unit at Grand Atlantic has been sold, but according to Maj Dill others have been cleared to purchase units.“We have at the moment a total of 14 people who are very interested in purchasing a unit, in other words they have been preapproved and are looking to purchase one.”But he said all of that has been put on hold.“Everything with that is at a standstill at the moment until such time as we have some clarity as to what direction we’re going to go in. No further units will be sold.“Those people who are still interested in buying a unit are simply being told that they should delay any further movement until such time as we have clarity and we will contact them,” he said.Asked if in hindsight he would admit that the project was a multimillion dollar mistake he reflected on the housing situation in Bermuda when the Grand Atlantic development was built.“It was a project for the time, if you remember in 2008 and 2009 everyone was crying out for accommodations.“And then the market collapsed, number one, and number two, we had the exodus of international company businesses,” said Maj Dill.“At one point we had a very dire need to provide that type of accommodation. Now I would say there’s a glut of empty units in Bermuda and so the housing need has been reduced.“No longer is housing a number one priority, for some it’s still urgent but there’s no longer the situation that we were in a few years ago when there was not enough housing available.”Asked for his take on the situation now in light of the economy, he said: “There are too many variables out there for me to say that I’m comfortable meaning that the world economic climate seems to be recovering but we won’t know for sure until the later on in the year.“We’re looking at it as being prepared for any eventuality. In the event that the market does recover, in the event that international business returns, in the event that Bermudians are more confident in Bermuda again and decide to invest in real estate again then we’re prepared,” he said.He noted that the tide changed in December.“Post election people started to show renewed interest in the development. But then of course after the election a new Government came in, the requests for information on Grand Atlantic also came in with that and things were put on suspension; but I’m eternally optimistic about this development.”As for the fourth and final stage of the development that includes plans for a new hotel, Maj Dill said: “You’ll have to ask Gilbert Lopes what all this means for his development. We have no involvement with the fourth and final phase of that development.”

Barrett Dill