Barbadians are to have a hand in the final design of the US$175 million controversial Hyatt Ziva Resort on Bay Street, the City and the opportunity to own part of it.
Developer Mark Maloney said details of this investment potential would be shared by the financial institution arranging the funding even as he and his team await Town Planning permission to start building.
His announcement came last evening during a public presentation at the Copacabana Restaurant and Bar on Bay Street, aimed at sharing information on the preliminary architectural design and to get feedback from interested parties.
Earlier, planning consultant with Visions Developers Incorporated Derrick Oderson gave the assurance that the concerns and suggestions expressed by several members of the public would be addressed in a Social Impact Assessment (SIA).
Oderson, who chaired the meeting, was speaking during the question and answer segment from a well-turned out audience that included social activist David Comissiong and prominent business owners Mr and Mrs Ram Merchandani, whose Liquidation Centre property was compulsorily acquired by Government to make way for the Hyatt.
Oderson, an attorney at law, told the gathering he expects their contributions would form part of the final architectural design for the resort situated in the heart of the UNESCO-designated Heritage Site.
“We thank you for the information…again we are hoping that your questions will feed into the design that will be presented to the final decision-maker,” the consultant said.
His comments were in response to a wide range of concerns and suggestions from members of the public, including Comissiong, who submitted a documented list of issues to the developers on the spot, noting that they were not intended to be adversarial, but to be seriously considered.
Comissiong, who made a verbal presentation from a copy of that same document, led a campaign against the construction of the Hyatt, in which he insisted that it was illegal for the project to get planning permission in the absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), a town hall meeting and publication of the results of the EIA.
However, Oderson sought to make it clear that last evening’s gathering was not a town hall meeting because the developers had not yet reached that stage where the EIA can be made available to residents and Barbadians as a whole.
“This meeting is a meeting with two objectives: sharing information and having your initial feedback. It is not part of the EIA process. An EIA has been prepared. It will trigger a consultation process formally where the EIA will be made available to the public, as highlighted by Mr Comissiong, and you will have another opportunity then, to comment on the Environmental Impact Assessment,” he added.
The planning consultant revealed that the EIA will also include a Social Impact Assessment where the impact is looked at from two perspectives…the impact of the project on the community socially and vice versa.
Picking up from where Oderson left off, Director of Visions Developers Inc. Mark Maloney reassured Barbadians that their comments would be seriously considered and that a website would be up and running in another two weeks where all information on the project would be made available.
“The project does not have planning permission…we are in that process now; and we sought to engage with the public and share and to get feedback so that anything that requires the change, not just from our end, that the regulatory agencies can take into account,” Maloney said.
“The EIA has been done at the request of the Planning Department and we can assure you that all of the consultants that have been engaged to work on each aspect of the EIA are credible professionals. All of the studies have been submitted. They are not public yet because we have not gotten to the stage yet where we are required to do the town hall meeting,” the developer told his audience.
In an apparent response to Comissiong’s earlier presentation, Maloney said he was aware that such a meeting must be held within a stipulated time and that advertisements are required to be published in the local newspapers and the studies must be made public.
“That time will come. So please…I just wanted to clear the air to make sure that it isn’t a perception that we have not shared any of the studies because they are now with Town Planning and they would be shared with all of the agencies by Town Planning and you would go through that process,” Maloney stressed.
A series of other questions and concerns were raised by a number of speakers. Among those questions were the location of the high water mark in relation to the hotel, the height of the building which will now be 18 floors rather than 10, access to the beach, the treatment of the sewage, parking, the all-inclusive nature of the hotel and opportunities for residents to find work.
For instance, Maloney informed the audience that the hotel will be set back 130 feet from the high water mark, 30 feet more than what was required.
“The Marine Impact Study (MIS) and the [other] studies will dictate the design. We are aware we have gained land space in Carlisle Bay. The over-water suites…that’s a quality decision. The design of that will be dictated through the Marine Impact Study; and that will all be made public,” he stated.
Maloney, who responded to most questions with his business partner James Edghill, said the hotel will have 100 parking spaces on property, but that they were in negotiations with nearby businesses such as Massy to accommodate additional parking.
He also addressed the question from a Richard Gittens who asked why the hotel would now be 18 storeys, making it eight storeys higher than the Central Bank of Barbados even after Government’s acquisition of the Liquidation Centre next door.
However, Maloney explained that even though the Hyatt will be 18 storeys the advanced construction technology being used, made it possible to reduce the height of the floors.
In fact, he told the gathering, that the hotel’s 18 storeys were only about five feet higher than the Central Bank’s ten storeys.
When he took over the microphone, Edghill said the developers would embrace a suggestion from a member of the audience to adopt a three-prong approach to urban regeneration that involves the economical, social and physical aspects.
“We are well onboard with this process and I agree with him fully and I would welcome to have some more input on it from him…his suggestions in developing the area socially in terms of doing [human] trafficking workshops, drug prevention centres…we think they could be hugely beneficial,” he declared.
In addressing the issue of energy, the developer announced that the hotel would be using back-up generators driven by a battery system in addition to photovoltaic panels on the roof.
He pointed out that the PV system would not power the entire building, but was intended to offset the use of traditional electricity in an energy-intensive facility.
As far as the sewage system was concerned, he said the developers were in discussion with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) who must approve everything that is done with respect to the operation and management of a sewage system.