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Hotel and casino plan great news, says Bascome

St George's MP Kenneth Bascome has hailed the announcement that his area could get a new hotel and casino as “great news”.

Mr Bascome said the proposed redevelopment of the former Club Med site was not just a boost for the East End, but Bermuda as a whole.

And the Old Towne's former mayor last night praised Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell for making the agreement possible.

While the Government backbencher acknowledged that only a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed with developers Desarrollos Hotelco Group, he expressed hope that negotiations over the next four months would result in a development.

“It will not be allowed to go on for four years before this group is finally told that they have exhausted their exclusivity,” Mr Bascome said in a reference to Carl Bazarian's drawn out but ultimately futile attempt to develop the location between 2008 and 2012.

“I believe this is great news not only for the community of St George but for Bermuda as a whole.

“I believe that we need to focus on taking this country where it needs to go by creating jobs and bringing in foreign investment.

“I have always said that, as an OBA MP, I would have access to Ministers and be able to do things for my community through having that access. I would like to thank Minister Shawn Crockwell and his support staff for selecting this group. Hopefully by September we will know if they are in a position to move forward with their proposal.”

Earlier yesterday Mr Crockwell told Parliament that St George's could get a “world class, full service resort site” as a result of the plan.

The 238-room hotel proposed by the Venezuelan hotel development group Desarrollos Hotelco includes a casino, Mr Crockwell said, along with the renovation of the St George's Golf Course, 16 hotel residences, 24 golf villas and 16 estate residences.

Government on Tuesday signed an exclusive 120-day negotiation period with the developer, Mr Crockwell told the House, promising to keep MPs “fully apprised” of its progress.

The Desarrollos Hotelco Group recently received conditional planning approval to build a 380 room JW Marriot Hotel and casino in the Turks and Caicos — the result of a 2012 memorandum of understanding with that nation to develop a $500 million series of hotels.

The company has also been responsible for developing the JW Marriot, Marriott Playa Grande and Renaissance in Venezuela, along with the 320-room Ritz Carlton Aruba.

Addressing the House of Assembly, Mr Crockwell said the announcement was a testament to the Government's focus to create an inviting business environment to attract investment and create jobs.

“Desarrollos is an experienced Venezuelan real estate and hotel development group,” Mr Crockwell said. “The company was founded in 1997 and over the years Desarrollos has developed many commercial, residential and hospitality real estate projects in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

“The exclusive negotiation period will allow the Government and Desarrollos to meet with both internal and external stakeholders, negotiate terms, prepare the relevant documentation to finalise agreements to construct and operate a world class luxury resort development on the 124-acre St. George's Tourism Development Site.

“The selection of Desarrollos resulted from a thorough Request for Proposal (RFP) 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.'”

He stated that more than a dozen international developers and investment companies expressed interest in the project, and five written submissions were received by the Ministry by the March 31 deadline, however he refused to name the unsuccessful applicants.

“By no means was it an easy decision as both shortlisted finalist submitted impressive proposals that were augmented with very detailed oral presentations that highlighted their desire and enthusiasm for the project but most importantly their proven ability to deliver projects was evidenced,” Mr Crockwell said. “Ultimately, Desarrollos was chosen.

“This announcement is exciting news for Bermuda as the benefits of this development are significant to the revitalisation of our tourism industry, the St George's community and Bermuda as a whole.

“This development has the potential to spur other developments and provide exponential employment opportunities. Therefore, I strongly encourage Honourable members and all Bermudians to collectively work together and do our utmost to ensure the success of this project.”

Mr Crockwell denied a suggestion by Opposition Leader Marc Bean that the RFP process for the Club Med site had been “compromised” by the so-called Jetgate saga.

“Not at all,” the Tourism Minister replied.

The Minister also told the PLP's Glenn Blakeney he saw no conflict of interest in Tourism Authority chairman David Dodwell's involvement in vetting the proposal.

Mr Crockwell refused to name the two companies who were shortlisted for the resort project but weren't ultimately successful, saying they might not wish to be revealed.

And, on the potential for a casino, the Minister said it rested on the application for a licence once the Gaming Commission is established.

“It's not critical to the success of the site,” he said.

The St George's site previously housed the Club Med resort, which closed up shop in 1988. The building remained vacant for 20 years before being torn down. US businessman Mr Bazarian was signed up to develop a Park Hyatt resort on the site — but the development agreement was later scrapped because of contract breaches.

Government repealed the Act of Parliament granting the developer a 262-year lease on the site last September, opening up the way for new developers to come forward, and put out a RFP for the property in January.

The site of the old Club Med that was imploded on August 25th 2008 as it sits April 10th 2014 (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published May 24, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm)

Hotel and casino plan great news, says Bascome

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