December start for landmark Fairmont Southampton project
Work will start this month on the redevelopment of the iconic Fairmont Southampton hotel, described by the Government as the biggest construction project in the island’s history and essential for economic recovery.
The milestone announcement came from Westend Properties, a subsidiary of Gencom, the Miami-based investment firm that purchased the island’s largest resort in December 2019.
Construction is to go ahead “in earnest in early 2024”, with preliminary work this month to prepare for “extensive renovations” ahead.
Westend said it had taken on contractors Insulcon Maintenance and BCM Construction, who would be “engaged formally and remain integral to this initial stage”.
Through December, furniture from the hotel will be donated, with liquidation in key areas of the hotel in preparation for construction to commence.
Westend Properties is very excited to announce the start of renovations at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel and Beach Club. This day has been a long time coming and we are thrilled to be taking the necessary initial steps in reimagining this iconic property so it can once again welcome guests from around the world.
“We are incredibly thankful to the Government of Bermuda for their careful consideration of our plans to date, and would also like to acknowledge the Bermuda Industrial Union for their steadfast and ongoing support,” said Karim Alibhai, founder and principal of Gencom, the managing partner of Westend Properties. “While we’re very grateful for the granting of the SDO, our first priority has always been to get the hotel reopened and these important first steps lay the groundwork for the transformational work to come. We can’t wait to get started.”
The redevelopment is now under way, with construction beginning in earnest in early 2024.
There is, of course, a great deal of preliminary work to be done at the site in preparation for the extensive renovations that lie ahead. We have selected local talent, including contractors Insulcon Maintenance Ltd and BCM Construction Ltd, who will be engaged formally and remain integral to this initial stage of the project.
In December, in anticipation of the extensive planned upgrades we will be donating furniture and fixtures that cannot be repurposed to local charities, schools, churches, care homes and the general community. We will then liquidate what remains in the identified areas of the hotel in preparation for the construction that will start in the new year.
Before beginning the extensive overhaul of the beach club in January, the Westend team will be undertaking a range of work in the weeks ahead, including the removal of interior finishes in the existing building, mobilisation of excavators for necessary demolition around the buildings and the surveying and staking needed for the trenches that will be required between the beach club and the hotel. The exterior work is scheduled to begin in January.
“We are so excited to be moving ahead with this project, and as evidenced by the Career Fair in June, there will be lots of opportunities for both short and long-term employment for Bermudians,” Mr Alibhai continued. “The renovated and upgraded hotel will significantly enhance the island's appeal for tourists, conferences and corporate travel. We look forward to delivering a world-class, quality product that will act as a critical cornerstone to Bermuda’s tourism industry.”
Gencom has successfully revitalised several master-planned resort communities and destination properties, including the Rosewood Tucker’s Point in Bermuda, the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica.
At a number of these properties, commercial success has also generated long-term social and economic gains for their respective communities.
Exterior work at the beach club was said to begin in January.
Westend acknowledged the announcement had been “a long time coming”, while Karim Alibhai, the founder of Gencom, thanked the Bermuda Government and the Bermuda Industrial Union.
“We can’t wait to get started,” he said.
Mr Alibhai added that the start of renovations would come with “lots of opportunities for both short and long-term employment for Bermudians”.
Hopes for boosting airlift to the island are pinned to the reopening of the resort, which is crucial for large-scale business events as well as regular tourism.
It has been shuttered since the spring of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down Bermuda tourism.
Legislators last year approved at least $121 million of tax concessions over 15 years for the redevelopment, but a question mark has hung over the beginning of construction until the latest statement from the owner.
The announcement comes just over a month after the hotel’s special development order was approved in October by Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, who called the resort critical for the island’s tourism revival and said the development would be a significant boost to the economy.
The SDO, which allows for up to 250 tourism and residential units, has been heavily criticised by conservation groups.
It is backed by industry heavyweights from the Bermuda Hotel Association to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, as well as the BIU.
Mr Roban has cited an economic impact figure of $1.4 billion for the project — with roughly $300 million attributable to job creation and $1.1 billion to “the broader impact of the demand for local services”.
The statement from Westend Properties did not come with an end date for renovations.
David Burt, the Premier, who is attending the COP28 climate conference in Dubai with Mr Roban, was unavailable for comment.