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More than 260 tourism and residential units planned for Fairmont Southampton

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The master plan for the Fairmont Southampton villa development

Redevelopment plans for the Fairmont Southampton resort include doubling the number of units that were allowed in a Special Development Order granted in 2009, neighbours of the site understand.

Area residents were invited to hear more about the work that Westend Properties intends to carry out — although a formal application has yet to be submitted to the Government.

One householder said: “I believe people will be surprised and shocked at the number of condos being proposed.”

They said that the information outlined 261 units, compared with the 130 put forward 14 years ago.

The 2009 proposed master plan for the Fairmont Southampton (Image supplied)

An SDO granted in 2009 gave planning permission in principle for 71 fractional tourism properties, 37 residential villas and 22 town homes.

Information shared recently with neighbours of the Fairmont Southampton resort showed that the latest proposal was for 114 tourism units each with two to four bedrooms, resulting in 311 visitor bedrooms overall.

A proposed master plan published by Westend last month indicated that its Phase 1 properties — for which construction “will not begin until well after the hotel renovations have commenced” — were in an area labelled Turtle Hill as well as on land lining the golf course to the south of the hotel.

Phase 1 units are expected to deliver 195 of the additional guest rooms.

Hilltop Villas — which, according to the information shown to residents, would potentially comprise 120 residential units, totalling 330 bedrooms — were earmarked for Phase 2.

Figures suggested that these would include six-storey buildings; the 2009 SDO permitted in principle units of up to three storeys.

Phase 3 of the proposed work would be the development of South Road Townhomes.

Plans presented to residents showed it is hoped that these will be made up of 27 residential units that deliver 99 bedrooms.

One person who saw the proposals said: “I think people were looking at it and thinking, my goodness, a bit shell-shocked, to be honest, and not quite understanding why the need for such a development.”

The resident highlighted a tax concessions arrangement that is expected to provide relief of at least $121 million to the hotel owners over 15 years.

They added: “Surely a more elegant, reduced condo footprint could be envisaged.”

In its update last month, Westend Properties, an affiliate of the Miami-based investment firm Gencom, said that the 2009 SDO remained in effect and a new application was “in the process of being submitted”.

It added: “The footprint is not substantially different from the SDO that was granted in 2009, but there is a proposed increase in the number of villas as well as in the height of some of the residential and tourism units.

“It is estimated that the projected build will only take up an additional 34 acres of the entire 100-acre property; 62 per cent of the existing recreational and green space will remain.

“Once the SDO is approved, we can begin the design and pre-construction stage of the project.

“We anticipate the development will be executed in three phases; the ultimate timing will be based on the market demand for comparable real estate and will be over a longer duration, estimated at 15 to 20 years.”

Westend says economic benefits of SDO could be $50m annually

In an update last month, Westend Properties said renovations at the Fairmont Southampton, combined with the addition of new tourism and residential units, “will result in a tremendous economic benefit to Bermuda”.

Referencing figures credited to the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, this was said to include:

• a GDP impact of $312.9 million, thanks to construction of the units

• an annual impact, thanks to the units, on GDP of $7.9 million to $51.8 million

• an impact on GDP of $846 million over 20 years owing to the units

• $462.2 million, or 55 per cent, of the impact is expected to flow to local businesses and $383.8 million, or 45 per cent, would go to the hotel

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said this week: "The Department of Planning has received no formal application for the Fairmont Southampton site, likely because the applicant is undergoing the scoping process to produce an environmental-impact statement.

“This process occurs before submitting a formal application.”

The planning department’s website said SDOs can only be made “for projects deemed to be of national significance and importance which cannot be approved by the [Development Applications] Board under the usual planning application process”.

Steps in the application process include a formal request to the minister responsible for planning, publicity, consultation and an assessment by technical officers.

An independent consultant to Gencom and Westend Properties declined to comment when asked about the proposals this week.

Fairmont Southampton (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Bermuda National Trust raised concerns last year after environmental groups heard at a preliminary scoping meeting in May 2021 that “well over 300 units” were planned for the site.

Karim Alibhai, the founder and principal of Gencom, said earlier that the residential component of the development project "will be very thoughtfully done“.

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Published March 17, 2023 at 10:19 am (Updated March 17, 2023 at 10:19 am)

More than 260 tourism and residential units planned for Fairmont Southampton

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