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Fairmont Southampton timeline

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The Fairmont Southampton (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

December 2019: Gencom, a Miami-based hospitality real-estate investment and development firm, acquires the Fairmont Southampton by purchasing Westend Properties Limited. Karim Alibhai, Gencom’s founder and principal, says an ambitious programme of renovations is planned.

March 2020: Attractions such as the golf club, spa and restaurants are closed and the hotel lays off staff as the Covid-19 pandemic strikes.

September 2020: The Fairmont Southampton’s closure for renovations, projected to last 18 months, is announced for October 2023. More than 700 employees will be made redundant.

October 2020: A redundancy payment deadline of October 23 is missed. Former staff gather at the hotel seeking clarity about when they can expect funds.

November 2020: Curtis Dickinson, then the finance minister, says the Government will cover the severance packages of $10.9 million as a loan so that workers are not left “in the dark” until November 20, the new planned due date.

February 2021:Mr Dickinson confirms that Westend Properties paid the $11 million for redundancy payments.

July 2021: Changes to the granting of special development orders are approved by legislators. The new process means SDO requests will be advertised with an environmental impact assessment — required by law — for 21 days of public scrutiny but will not automatically be the subject of debate in Parliament. Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, told The Royal Gazette when the amendments were tabled there were “no projects and no developments that I have seen or have been proposed that would benefit from these changes”.

February 2022:David Burt says investors plan to inject more than $200 million into the project and tells MPs he hopes the hotel will reopen by summer 2023, or in time to accommodate large conferences by October. The first step in the process to secure a casino licence is taken.

March 2022: The Premier insists that a $50 million guarantee was agreed with Gencom in 2019 by the former minister of finance — Mr Dickinson quit the post on February 14 — to support the redevelopment project.

Mr Dickinson later tells MPs: “The quantum of and form of the Government’s support of the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton were the primary reasons behind my resignation. I want to make it absolutely clear that I was, and still am, supportive of a level of financial support for this project. However, I was and continue to be unable to ignore the principles and judgment gained through my over 30 years of experience in investment and commercial banking.”

He adds: “It has been suggested that in 2019 the Government entered into a $50 million guarantee with Westend Properties Limited/Gencom for the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton hotel. That is incorrect.”

Mr Dickinson said the Government entered into a letter of intent — not a commitment — with the developers, who failed to meet the conditions in the LoI before it expired on December 31, 2020.

The owner of the hotel says more than $400 million will have been invested in the overall development of the resort — including its acquisition — by the time it reopens. Westend says the target is to start work that summer “with a plan for a grand reopening in 2023”.

May 2022: Parliament approves the Fairmont Southampton Hotel Act 2022, which contained tax concessions of between $121 million and $133 million over 15 years. The House of Assembly hears that the Government will give a guarantee of up to $75 million, representing 21 per cent of the redevelopment project’s latest estimated cost — $376 million.

August 2022: As the hotel marks its 50th anniversary, Fairmont’s area director of sales and marketing, Simon Boden, says significant progress has been made on pre-construction work and hopes that substantive work will begin by the end of the year.

PLP leadership election at the St Paul A.M.E. Church Centennial Hall. Pictured- Curtis Dickinson and David Burt, Premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

October 2022: Mr Burt tells Progressive Labour Party delegates, at a leadership debate as his place at the helm is challenged by Mr Dickinson, that the Fairmont Southampton deal “has been done”. He adds: “The deal has been signed. What we are doing is getting to the closing process, which takes 45 to 60 days.” Mr Dickinson says later: “The deal is done, but it’s still being papered? So, is it done or is it being papered? I would venture to say that the deal is not done. I think far too often cute language is used to create confusion.” The Premier retains his place as PLP leader.

December 2022: Mr Burt tells the House of Assembly that costs of the redevelopment project are thought to have passed $400 million and he expects to be table the guarantee agreement when MPs return the next year. He tells the House: “The developers are still confident that they will be able to progress the opening of the hotel for the 2024 tourism season”.

The master plan for the Fairmont Southampton villa development

February 2023: Westend Properties reveals plans for the resort and says “construction is due to begin the next quarter”.

March 2023: The Fairmont Southampton Act 2023 is passed in the House. The Minister of Tourism, Vance Campbell, says the 2022 Act is not in force. MPs hear that tax and customs duty concessions will be structured as rebates rather than the relief outlined in the 2022 Act.

April 2023: A request for a special development order is submitted, seeking in-principle approval for up to 261 tourism and residential units in buildings of two to six storeys. More than 3,800 people sign a petition by April 25, calling for the proposals to be scaled back over fears about impact on the environment. The redevelopment is backed by former premier Sir John Swan and the Bermuda Industrial Union.

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Published April 26, 2023 at 7:51 am (Updated April 26, 2023 at 7:51 am)

Fairmont Southampton timeline

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