Royal Gazette: Jeffers: Gencom has Bermuda over a barrel
Hotel developer Gencom is holding the island “over a barrel” in its demands for the Fairmont Southampton development, it has been claimed.
Charles Jeffers II, the former chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, added that the Government had “zero leverage” in any negotiations.
Mr Jeffers spoke out after resort investors threatened to pull the plug on the project if a special development order was not granted.
At a public meeting on Tuesday night, Chris Maybury, of the investment group, said: “We have shown a certain amount of commitment. We can’t and won’t keep doing that. We can’t. The world has changed. We either have to get this done or the world is begging for our investment.”
In addition to renovating the hotel, Gencom wants to build 147 residential units, some in blocks six storeys high, but needs special authorisation from the Government before construction can begin.
Commenting on social media after Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Jeffers said: “With the hotel having already been closed for three years, Bermuda is over a proverbial barrel and has zero leverage.
“The threat of the developers/financiers walking away is real, as there is nothing that prevents them from just letting the hotel continue to sit empty while we suffer.”
Karen Border, the executive director for the Bermuda National Trust, said foreign investors had the most to gain out of the residential portion of the development.
She said: “It is clear that the majority of those in favour of the development support it for one reason — not because they love Westend’s vision for the resort, but because they are worried about Bermuda’s economic situation and are afraid for the future.
“The developer is playing on this fear and pushing the line that Bermudians MUST accept everything in the SDO or they will walk away, the hotel will be left derelict and Bermuda will lose.
“We should not be fooled and we should not be intimidated into giving away our island for real-estate development that will primarily benefit foreign investors.
“The economic benefit to Bermudians of the residential portion of the project is wholly unproven. What we will lose from this overdevelopment far outweighs what might be gained.
“Gencom/Westend are playing chicken with Bermuda. It is extremely unlikely that they will walk away from their investment at this stage.
“If they really want to be ‘good neighbours’ and good corporate citizens, as Mr Maybury claims, and if they want to move forward with the development quickly so that they can begin to make money on the project, they should scale back their ambitions now to a level of development that is more acceptable to the many thousands of Bermudians who find the current proposal offensive.”