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Shipping container visitor centre to ‘end operations’ in December

The Bermuda Tourism Authority's Visitor Services Centre on Front Street (File photograph)

A visitor hub in the City of Hamilton is to cease operations at the end of the year and the structure is expected to be removed by next May, a request for proposals showed.

Contractors were invited to submit proposals for the dismantling of the Bermuda Tourism Authority building — made from shipping containers — on Front Street.

The BTA’s Hamilton Visitor Services centre was officially opened in April 2019 but with planning permission that limited the structure’s presence until February 2023.

A decision by the Development Applications Board last year meant that the authority could continue to use the unit as its VSC until February 16, 2025 and that by May 16 next year, “all structures shall be entirely removed and the land shall be restored to its former condition”.

An RFP notice said last week: “The Bermuda Visitor Services Centres Ltd is seeking qualified contractors to submit proposals for the dismantling of the Hamilton Visitor Services Centre structure located on Front Street.

“The selected contractor will be responsible for the complete dismantling, removal and disposal of the structure in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

“The centre will cease operations on December 31, 2024, with the structure to be removed by May 1, 2025.”

It added that the site should be restored “to a clean and safe condition suitable for future use”.

A deadline for the submission of proposals was set for 5pm on June 28.

Planning approval for the unit was first granted in 2017 after the BTA applied for permission to move the Team Artemis guest pavilion — used as part of the event village for the 35th America’s Cup — to the site on Front Street, near the junction with Queen Street.

In meeting minutes, the DAB said then that the permission would expire five years from the issuance date of the building permit, which took the consent to February 16, 2023.

The BTA applied before that date for an extension and a letter in support of its submission showed that the quango wished permission to continue for another five years.

Minutes from a DAB meeting held on September 6 last year showed that members agreed to approve the extension “from date of prior approval for two years from February 2023 with occupancy finishing February 2025”.

Jakai Franks, the BTA’s vice-president of operations, said last year that the organisation planned to set up a new location that would “continue to meet the needs and expectations” of visitors.

He added then: “We will plan our relocation and secure a new space that retains the accessibility, convenience and customer service of our existing Visitor Services Centre.

“We look forward to sharing further updates soon.”

Questions were sent by The Royal Gazette to the BTA on Friday but no response was received by the time of publication.

The visitor centre is on land rented from the City of Hamilton and a city spokeswoman said last week that the Corporation of Hamilton would follow instructions set out by the planning department.

She added: “We will then, as an organisation, determine the best use for that space at the appropriate time.”

Matthew Strong, a co-owner of The Birdcage cocktail bar — which secured an opportunity to operate from the roof level of the structure after a request for proposals in 2019 — urged residents last week to visit the watering hole while it remained open.

He said: “There is no future for The Birdcage, unfortunately.

“We would love to transition the team in to a new space and a new concept, obviously we are conscious of people’s livelihoods and careers, but we can’t just create a new space overnight.”

Mr Strong added: “We have really enjoyed our time there and a lot of what we have done; we are very proud of it.”

He said: “I would encourage people to get their fix this season.

“We are actually pursuing other venues to transition but it probably wouldn’t make sense to brand it as The Birdcage if we’re not going to be on a rooftop next to the birdcage.”

Mr Strong, who said he was very grateful to the BTA for the opportunity, highlighted that time was spent investing in the skills of the venue’s bartenders and that only Bermudians were hired there.

The BTA said in 2022, in response to a public access to information request, that the initial budget for construction of the visitor centre was $825,000 but that did not include acquisition of the containers and an elevator, or work related to disability access.

It added that spending on the build turned out to be $952,772 after additional costs related to strengthening of the structure to meet Bermuda code.

A BTA information officer confirmed later that the containers cost $245,831, the elevator was $66,000 and the remaining amount attributed to work for disability access was about $65,000.

Those figures brought the total spend to more than $1.3 million.

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Published June 10, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated June 10, 2024 at 7:59 am)

Shipping container visitor centre to ‘end operations’ in December

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