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Timeline for hotel revamp ‘doable’ say construction experts

Fairmont Southampton Hotel aerial view (File photograph)

A 15-month schedule to renovate Bermuda’s biggest resort is “fairly tight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it”, a construction expert said of plans to reopen the Fairmont Southampton Hotel by the summer of 2023.

Construction heads shared their views on the goal revealed earlier this month by David Burt, the Premier, to get the flagship South Shore resort back in business after a $200 million revamp.

The group, who declined to be named, highlighted the expensive possibility of asbestos removal for the Fairmont Southampton, which dates back to 1972.

They added upgrades to the hotel’s IT systems would also take “at least a year”.

More than 750 jobs were lost after the October 2020 closure of the Fairmont Southampton.

The hotel is also a major driver for the island’s tourism, representing 25 per cent of Bermuda’s total hotel guest rooms, and responsible for almost 30 per cent of air visitors to the island.

Mr Burt told the House of Assembly on February 4 that he and Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, had been “consumed” with making the redevelopment a reality.

The hotel was bought by Gencom, an investment firm based in Miami, Florida, in December 2019 with a major overhaul of the resort planned.

Another resort, the Hamilton Princess Hotel, completed a $100 million renovation in the summer of 2016 after its owners, the Green family, set aside three years to get the job done.

Last week, The Royal Gazette asked the construction industry what they made of Mr Burt’s timeline for the Fairmont Southampton.

“It might be a tall order if people worked from 7.30am to 4pm,” one source said. “But people going around the clock on shifts of eight hours, that’s entirely doable. For Bermuda, perhaps it would be unusual, but not for the rest of the world.”

He highlighted the likely expense of problems in a building that opened 50 years ago.

“Bear in mind with a big sum like $200 million, you have the Bermuda factor in there – it could be big-ticket items like asbestos, and new plumbing and air conditioning is going to be costly.”

The construction group highlighted that without specifics on the scope of works entailed, the viability of the 15-month timeline was a tough call.

Mr Burt alluded to “support” and “certainties” from the Government to secure the investment in the hotel, which will have a casino.

A veteran in Bermuda’s construction industry said that the timeline would likely be driven by the availability of labour resources for such a large job.

He pointed out that in a new build, “the sequence of events drives the schedule” – from excavating to building, roofing and sealing.

But in the case of a refurbishment, he said “they could in theory work on all 700 rooms at once”.

Mr Burt told MPs earlier this month that Jason Hayward, the labour minister, had “initiated discussions with the developers to meet the labour needs of such a development”.

He added: “Bermudians will be first preferred and first hired for all aspects of the project. My hope is that all those who can do the various jobs that will come, make themselves available for this purpose.”

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Published February 14, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated February 14, 2022 at 7:35 am)

Timeline for hotel revamp ‘doable’ say construction experts

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