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Bid to save Victoria Row

The Naval Dockyards Society has launched a last-ditch bid to save the old Victoria Row buildings.

The society, which is based in Britain, has applied to the Bermuda Government to have the structures listed as an emergency measure and demolition work halted.

At the end of last month, the West End Development Corporation, which owns the 19th-century buildings, announced that it had “reluctantly” started knocking them down.

Wedco maintained it had exhausted all avenues in trying to find investment or a developer for the dilapidated buildings.

But the start of demolition work prompted the NDS to call on the Government to impose an emergency listing on Victoria Row.

“It is inadequate for Wedco to say an external investor must come in and help them out when they have historically left the houses to neglect since 2009,” said Ann Coats, the chairwoman of the Naval Dockyards Society.

“They have the financial and professional duty of care for the estate in their hands, but have not reinvested revenue in their maintenance.

“They have not commissioned a condition survey to find out what needs to be done. They rejected the Habitat for Humanity scheme in 2006 and 2008 because they would not agree to give existing tenants priority or not to raise the rents after refurbishment. They have not taken a long-term view to conserve their historic estate sustainably, but have let neglect and hurricanes diminish it so the problem can go away.”

Victoria Row is part of the old Dockyard “town” that included schools, a hospital, theatre, stores and a post office and supplied the technical expertise and labour to run the giant industrial complex. Only a few buildings survive in usable condition to represent that thriving community.

Victoria and Albert Rows are the last remaining examples of the housing built for Dockyard tradesmen or artisans and their families. Other, similar rows — Portland Place, Princess Louise Terrace, Clarence Terrace, and Marine Terrace at Lodge Point — have all been demolished.

Ms Coats added: “The Naval Dockyards Society has argued since 2012 that Victoria and Albert Rows should be preserved and refurbished to show the world that Bermuda is committed to sustainable conservation, but they have done nothing except ask an investor to step in. There is no quick-fix solution for historic properties.

“On April 1, 2016, the society put them in touch with a professional surveyor and historic architect to provide a full historic building survey, cost plan, and development and investment analysis to establish options for refurbishing Albert and Victoria Rows, but this was rejected. Without a condition survey Wedco do not know how much it will cost to refurbish.

“In the view of the Naval Dockyards Society, only a Buildings Preservation Trust, which could apply for interest-free government loans and link with such organisations as Habitat for Humanity, which would also train craftspeople, can provide a long-term solution. Such collaboration among many small stakeholders can work. That is why the NDS has applied for emergency listing, to halt demolition and give Victoria Row a fresh chance 160 years after they were first built.”

The dilapidated Victoria Row building, which dates back to the 1840s. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 25, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated May 25, 2016 at 6:01 am)

Bid to save Victoria Row

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