More details are emerging following a series of strong objections tabled by heritage officials to the construction of the 15-storey Hyatt Centric Hotel on Bay Street, St Michael.
The 182-room development with 19 private residences is to be built approximately 172 feet, three inches high or 52,500 square metres, making it the tallest and also, according to outspoken attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong, the most “disproportionately large, domineering, ugly, out of character structure” in the heart of what was previously designated a UNESCO Heritage Site.
It is his latest dig at businessman Mark Maloney who is the man behind Vision Developments Inc. — local developers of the controversial luxury resort. Comissiong had previously brought action in the law courts challenging the Hyatt development on several grounds, including that the requisite environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not carried out and that no town hall meetings were held with the public.
With a ruling still pending on the matter, Barbados TODAY has obtained copies of a April, 2016 memo written by the Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins to the Permanent Secretary (Defence and Security) in the Prime Minister’s Office, in which Cummins clearly spelt out the objections of the Barbados National Trust (BNT) and the Barbados Museum & Historical Society (BM&HS) to the proposed development.
The memo also revealed that in addition to the multi-storey hotel, the original proposal submitted on March 30, 2015, was also for the construction of a pier, three restaurants, a bar, pool and spa.
However, by correspondence dated December 18, 2015, the agent for the developers informed the Chief Town Planner that the proposed offshore structures should be deleted from the present application, as it was their intention to re-apply for these structures at a later date.
This has however not served to quell the raging controversy surrounding the US$100 million development, with the BNT expressing “grave concern” about the
negative impact a building of this size, height and design will have on the UNESCO Heritage site of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison.
“There are concerns about the effect that such an intervention would have on our inscription and the sustainability of our status and accreditation,” the Trust was quoted by the Town Planner as saying.
Following a heritage impact assessment (HIA), which was carried out by the developers, the BNT further contended that the building was “neither attractive nor appropriate for the site in that its scale overshadows all other buildings within the designated heritage area, and the design will appear as a huge square block from all approaches”.
It also raised concern that such a major intervention will have a serious visual impact on the skyline of the entire heritage site.
“This is not therefore just a localized issue because it will dominate the length and breath of the historic landscape which was the basis on which the World Heritage Status was awarded.
“Furthermore, the erection of such a building within the boundaries of the designated heritage site will create a precedent for the construction of other intrusive building types within the zone,” the Trust said, while suggesting that there was still room for compromise and adaptation of the plans to create “a more integrated architectural style and density”.
The BM&HS also took issue with the suggestion in the HIA that the proposed building would have no discernable impact on the “original footprint of the existing street layout.
“Whilst this statement is correct, it omits a consideration of the visual impact of the 15-storey hotel and four storey event facility in relation to the OUV [outstanding universal value] of the site,” it said, while calling for further assessments to be done.
The museum also voiced objection to the construction of a 21-foot bridge over Highway 7 at Lower Bay Street, complaining that it would significantly alter the streetscape, layout and visual impact of the historic property.
However, the Ministry of Transport and Works said it had no objection in principle to the Hyatt project, although it called on the applicant to ensure that the road reserve was kept clear to enhance visibility. It also requested that the pedestrian bridge crossing Highway 7 be constructed at a minimum height of six metres above the roadway and that proposed footpaths be appropriately ramped to facilitate access by the physically challenged.