A special development order for the Fairmont Southampton Hotel that “stands to be the largest construction project in Bermuda’s history”, paving the way for up to 250 tourism and residential units, has been approved by the Minister of Home Affairs.
Walter Roban announced his decision yesterday, which he said came after “much consideration”.
“This is an anchor hotel,” Mr Roban said at a press conference attended by David Burt and several members of the Government. “Everything rides on its success.”
Reopening the hotel is the first priority for a project that will lead to “20-something years of long-term development”.
He deferred to the owners of the site, Westend Properties, on when the hotel would be back in business, but said the project was fully financed.
Westend did not give a timeline, but issued a statement saying that it “understands that this was a difficult decision for the Government” and that it was “very much looking forward to moving ahead on the Southampton project”.
“We respect that the SDO process in Bermuda is complex, but necessary; we appreciated the feedback we received from all parties, including the public, and made amendments to our original application in response to that feedback.”
The company added: “We are committed to fulfilling the conditions associated with the granting of the SDO, including ensuring that the reopening of the hotel is our foremost priority.”
Mr Roban said his decision, which overrode recommendation from the planning department and the Development Applications Board, was in “the national interest and the best interests of the majority of Bermuda residents”.
He stated that he “clearly did not agree with their conclusions” on turning down the SDO, adding: “I came to a different conclusion that I felt would ensure the long-term success of the country”.
Mr Roban insisted his decision had not overridden planning officials and objectors.
“I reject that proposition,” he said. “Those submissions have actually been fed into this SDO.”
He cited an estimate by PricewaterhouseCoopers that the redevelopment at the island’s biggest resort, closed since 2020, would deliver economic impact of $1.4 billion — with roughly $300 million attributable to job creation and $1.1 billion to “the broader impact of the demand for local services”.
Mr Roban acknowledged opposition to the development from conservation groups and residents.