*iStock photo
*iStock photo

Developing Hamilton’s waterfront could be the “game changer” that the island’s construction industry needs.

This from Construction Association President, Charles Dunstan, who says tourism development is vital to -injecting fresh life into an industry plagued by economic woes.

Mr Dunstan, who runs Kaissa Ltd, told the Sun that there are signs of optimism, but a change of mindset is also needed to convince more investors to plough cash into Bermuda.

He added: “Hamilton waterfront could hold the key for construction firms. It would be a huge shot in the arm. It is one of those long-term, phased projects that would provide revenues for five to 10 separate firms.

“We need a game changer and this could be it. It would be more than just an individual tourist resort. To get tourists here we need something more, something more exciting. We have to make the most of our waterfront and make it into something special. We have become much more of a land-coveted community than our forefathers ever were.”

Alex DeCouto, President of Greymane Construction, said that gaming could “tip the scales” back in Bermuda’s favour.

He added: “There has to be a game changing shift in approach to ‘Bermuda Inc’ for there to be a material difference in economic activity, including construction. As things stand, there is plenty of infrastructure in place such as offices and housing to accommodate our current business model. At current or even higher levels of activity Government cannot afford significant investment required for a new Causeway or airport.

“There is obvious need for investment in hospitality, but we are a poor competitor in terms of investment return relative to other jurisdictions fighting for the same tourists. 

“We need to attract that investment, we need to improve the returns, and really we need gaming. Just to tip the scales, not as a silver bullet. Then we might see real interest in new hotels.”

Over recent years Mr Dunstan has seen his business shrink from 50 staff to just 12 today. But he remains convinced that positive and creative thinking would get the industry out of the current stagnation.

He said: “There is now a huge surplus of office space right now in Bermuda – probably around a million square feet – so we need to look elsewhere to move the industry forward.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to take a more positive stance and change the current mindset. We still have to weather this downturn for another 6-12 months.

Ripe for development

“I don’t see the market turning around in the short term. Tourism is an obvious focus looking forward. There are pieces of property out there ripe for tourism development. It’s a question of getting the investment.

“Sonesta has just sold and just last week we have finally seen some requests for drawings on the Hamilton Princess redevelopment and that is very positive news for everyone in the construction industry.

“There are other properties in St George’s that are empty and have clear potential if the right investor comes along.

“There is the hotel at Par-La-Ville and the Morgan’s Point development too. Bermudians have a history of re-inventing themselves for 400 years.

“We went from agriculture, to maritime, to tourism to international business. Now we need to work out what is next and how we can re-invent ourselves this time.”