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New images show scale of Fairmont Southampton plans

Then and now: an artist impression of the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton. The top image shows a 2009 plan for redevelopment, while the lower image illustrates how the resort could look if new proposals get the go-ahead (Photograph supplied)

Six-storey residential units will dominate the skyline at the Fairmont Southampton hotel, according to artist’s impressions of the proposed development released for the first time yesterday.

Images contained in a special development order application show the iconic building being surrounded by a swath of units, which take up much of the resort’s open space.

The resort’s golf course will also be affected by the development, with ten of its 40 acres being concreted over, according to plans.

Developers have admitted that the addition of 261 units to the resort will have a “major” visual impact on the property and surrounding environment, but insisted that this would be “offset” by economic benefits.

Westend Properties, an affiliate of the Miami-based investment firm Gencom, plans to build the units — in addition to upgrading the hotel building — over the next 20 years.

But the document also revealed that a completion date for phase one of the development had been put back to the end of next year. David Burt, the Premier, has said that he expected the resort to be open for next year’s tourism season.

Developers claimed that, according to an economic impact study, the construction phase of the development could generate more than $300 million.

But a further $846 million is expected to be generated in the long term “as a result of visitors coming to the island and renting the units, who are then spending money in the local economy on food and beverage, entertainment and sightseeing”.

The SDO was submitted to Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, last week.

In a cover letter supporting the application, Peter Adwick, of Adwick Planning, insisted that the hotel building will remain “the centrepiece“ of the resort.

The letter states: “To accommodate changing trends in the real estate market, Westend Properties Ltd is seeking flexibility with respect to detailed planning of the units, therefore detailed design has not been attempted at this time, and thus the proposal is restricted to high-level conceptual design.”

Although the SDO makes frequent references to a 2009 SDO that was approved and is still active, the scale of the present proposal dwarfs the 2009 plan, which proposed building just 130 new units.

The Bermuda National Trust has already urged residents to oppose the development, claiming that it would have a negative impact on the environment.

Referring to an assessment of the visual impact of the proposal, Mr Adwick wrote: “The assessment found that, as a result of topography, impact magnitude varies from ‘major’ for nearby receptors to the south and west with direct views of the Hill Top Villas and Golf Villas, to ‘insignificant’ for receptors to the north and east that have limited or no views of the developments.”

However, the SDO contains a more detailed analysis of the assessment. It states in part: “As the proposed development is on land that is both closer and substantively elevated over the receptor, these numerous tall structures are expected to appear dominant in the viewfield.

“The massing of these structures, as viewed from this receptor significantly exceeds that of the existing hotel.

“Additionally, it is expected that the character of the viewfield will be dramatically altered with the addition of these structures. Accordingly, the magnitude of this changed visual impact on this receptor is rated as major.”

What gets built when

According to the Economic Impact Report carried out by PwC and submitted with the report, the order in which different developments will be built is:

Turtle Hill “with income expected from pre-sales in Year 1”.

Golf Villas

Hilltop Villas

Golf Units

South Road Townhouses

In his letter, Mr Adwick claimed that the development will necessitate “minor modifications” to the resort’s golf course.

But he later added: “The proposed development on recreation-zoned land will affect 10.1 acres of the 40.95 acres of golf course at the resort.”

The SDO emphasised that work on the hotel structure — which has been shut since 2020 — will be a priority, and that construction of residential units will begin “only when a significant number of the proposed units have been pre-sold”.

Mr Adwick concluded: “The complete package of hotel renovations, facilities upgrades, increased hotel inventory and tourism/residential units available for purchase will send a clear message to the international tourism market that Bermuda is open for business.

“The renovations to the hotel are long overdue and their completion will revitalise the building, but these proposals alone are unlikely to secure the future viability of the resort.

“The proposed tourism and residential development that is the subject of this request for approval by SDO is of fundamental importance to the future success of the Fairmont Southampton resort.

“The overall project is substantial and will be spread over a 20-year period. There are likely to be environmental consequences, but these are offset by the economic and employment benefits that are expected to accrue from the project.

“The proposals are commended to the minister and we request that an SDO be made to provide for granting in-principle planning permission for the development.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed that it had received the application, which is now available for viewing at the Department of Planning’s customer self-service portal.

A hard copy is also available at the Department of Planning front desk, in the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building.

The spokesman added: “A notice has been placed in the online Official Gazette, which includes the submission details and instructions for objecting and submitting representation. It will be necessary to have a CSS account in order to comment on the submission.

The closing date for submissions is May 3.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published April 13, 2023 at 4:49 pm (Updated April 13, 2023 at 4:49 pm)

New images show scale of Fairmont Southampton plans

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