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Arbitration centre may share space with other offices to help pay back costs, says minister

Breaking ground in 2020 on the new Ottiwell Simmons arbitration centre are David Burt, the Premier; Ottiwell Simmons, the veteran union leader; Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works; and representatives of Milhouse Engineering and Construction, a Chicago-based company hired to construct the building. (File photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

An international arbitration centre planned for Hamilton is likely to have to share its premises with other offices so that construction costs can be repaid.

The facility for settling disputes, to be named after the former Progressive Labour Party MP and trade union icon Ottiwell Simmons, was unveiled by the Government in 2020.

It was to be built on the site occupied by the demolished Hamilton Police Station, near the foot of Parliament Street.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, spoke last week on the centre, telling The Royal Gazette: “There will probably be some modifications on what we originally announced, but we are still committed to it.”

Colonel Burch said Chicago-based Milhouse Engineering & Construction remained on board with the project.

“They are still interested. Our challenge is the size of the lot, and being able to occupy the building and provide funding to pay back the development.

“We are likely to put some other people in there — other government departments,” Colonel Burch added.

Smoother roads coming for Harrington Sound — but other projects strapped for cash

The bumpy driving conditions left by trenching around Harrington Sound will be gone “probably by the end of the year”, according to the Minister of Public Works.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said the trench for utilities and upgrades to Belco’s infrastructure was the first of major digs seen around the island, and would have mostly settled by now to allow a final surfacing to proceed.

Uneven surfacing has proved a headache for drivers.

Colonel Burch said the new work should start near the Swizzle Inn in Hamilton Parish, with the cost split between Belco and the Government.

But planned upgrades at the Swing Bridge and Longbird Bridge in the East End remain stalled because of a lack of funding.

“There’s no money for it,” Colonel Burch said. “We’re ready to go. All the plans are done. But there’s no money.”

Milhouse was tasked with devising a public-private partnership that would pay for the building without Bermuda taking a hit to the public purse.

Getting an arbitration centre to settle commercial disputes has been proposed for Bermuda since the early 1990s as the island’s international business clout and reputation for financial services grew.

The idea got an enthusiastic reception in a 1992 conference, with the then finance minister and later premier, David Saul, calling it “great coup — it is just what we need; another string to our bow”.

Colonel Burch’s announcement in 2020 was welcomed by the island’s business and legal fraternity, with calls to fast-track the concept so that Bermuda could secure a top position catering to the region.

Last year the Government took on the consultancy firm PwC to assess the need for the facility.

In 2020 theGazette reported that a centre was hoped to be open as early as this year, with facilities including meeting rooms, office space, ground-floor shops, a cafeteria, elevators and underground parking.

Traditional arbitration hearings were planned, with arbitrators also using technology to deal with multiple overseas parties.

Colonel Burch said later that the proposal was one of “rent to buy”, with the developer covering the cost of construction and getting paid through the Government renting out the site.

Financing details were said to be “the final hurdle” to get the project off the ground.

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Published August 29, 2022 at 7:53 am (Updated August 29, 2022 at 7:53 am)

Arbitration centre may share space with other offices to help pay back costs, says minister

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