Video: Ottiwell Simmons Centre Groundbreaking

July 29, 2020

[Updated] Premier David Burt, Minister of Public Works Lt. Col. David Burch and Mr. Ottiwell Simmons attended the groundbreaking of the Ottiwell A. Simmons International Arbitration Centre held yesterday.

At the event, Premier Burt said, “I would like to say welcome to my Ministerial colleagues, the team from Milhouse and certainly the guest of honour today, Mr. Ottiwell Simmons, and everyone joining us here today from the Bermuda Industrial Union and the family.

“In times of crisis it is a natural tendency to retreat, to lose hope and to doubt. We are almost 8 months into 2020 and there hasn’t been very much to celebrate and hope has seemed in short supply.

“Today we have the opportunity, even if for a short while, to change the pandemic story that has so dominated our lives. Before us is a site that is now cleared of what was old and played out and which will be replaced by the new and state-of -the art.

“All brought about by the partnership of the government, the private sector and the labour of the men and women who will be employed to bring this new centre to reality.

“I speak of hope because it is some of the darkest days for working people in this country, Ottie Simmons stared down the powerful and was determined to bring hope to the people he fiercely represented. He occupied streets, fought hard in negotiations and spoke fearlessly for justice for working men and working women in this country.

“The honour of today is but a small gesture to recognize the sacrifice and selfless contribution of this man of the people.

“In these challenging economic times some people may think the solution to the issues we face is to stop everything. That is not an option. Our people must have work and this country’s infrastructure must continually be improved. Leadership on both these fronts is the Government’s responsibility.

“This groundbreaking today signals to the people that we want them to work and to provide for their families; it tells investors that this Government is open to innovative approaches to rebuild this economy; and it signals to world that Bermuda is a first class jurisdiction for dispute resolution that is only getting better.

“I commend the Minister of Public Works, the Honourable Lieutenant Colonel David Burch and his technical team as well as the visiting team from Milhouse for their partnership in this initiative and the team led by the Bermuda Business Development Agency who have worked to build the necessary buy-in for this critical undertaking.”

Minister Lt/Col David Burch said, “I am delighted to be here today on this most auspicious occasion – the official groundbreaking of the Ottiwell A. Simmons International Arbitration Center. And to be joined by:

  • The Hon. E. David Burt, JP MP, Premier of Bermuda
  • Honored Guest, Mr. Ottiwell A. Simmons JP
  • The Milhouse Team – led by Mr. Wilbur Milhouse III
  • Mr. Charles Daniels – Architect
  • Mr Andy Burrows and Ms. Lynesha Lightbourne – of the Bermuda Business Development Agency
  • Mr. Chris Furbert, President of the Bermuda Industrial Union
  • Mr. Steven Moniz and team [Island Construction – the company that demolished the Valerie T Scott building]
  • Mr. Jason Smith and team [Smith Hauling – the company that demolished the Allenhurst Building]
  • Public Works team of Steve Conway, Sheridan Ming, Dalton Burgess and Dennis Reid
  • As Brother Otti is so well respected, a full complement of his support are also present

“In 2017 the Bermuda Business Development Corporation proposed that the Allenhurst property be converted into an International Arbitration Centre and in the 2018 Speech from the Throne it was confirmed that this would be the direction of the Government and that the new building would be re-named the Ottiwell A. Simmons International Arbitration Center in honour of this most distinguished Bermudian – and we are delighted he is with us today.

“Although the facility is intended to serve as an International Arbitration Centre that brings with it the exposure and income for Bermuda on a macro level, the Government’s policy is that it must also serve as a mediation centre for residents who may have minor disputes, that if handled here could result in a reduction in costs and the number of cases heard by the courts or submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“This will lead to the average person having greater, more affordable access to dispute resolution.

“In March this year demolition of the Valerie T. Scott building was completed with demolition works of the Allenhurst Building scheduled to get underway shortly thereafter – only to be delayed several months as a result of the Covid-19 virus. Once the Shelter in Place was lifted the works recommenced and both sites are now cleared and ready for new construction.

“In September last year the Principals of Milhouse Engineering & Construction, Inc., a professional, full-service engineering and architecture firm located in downtown Chicago, were introduced to the Permanent Secretary and I by Bermudian attorney, Mr. Kevin Bean, who now serves as General Counsel for Milhouse.

“We learned of their extensive experience in engineering, construction and developing water and sewage systems around the world and felt that Bermuda could benefit from their expertise.

“Shortly thereafter the Chairman & CEO of Milhouse, Mr. Wilbur C Milhouse, III along with Senior Vice President Mr. Frank Martin visited Bermuda for initial introductions and discussions. Several meetings were held with our engineers and the executive management of the 3 quangos that fall under the Ministry.

“In December 2019, I along with the Permanent Secretary, Randy Rochester and Principal Water and Sewage Engineer, Tarik Christopher visited Milhouse Headquarters in Chicago to discuss the master water and sewage plan for the country, and during these talks, it became evident that Milhouse, with its extremely diverse team of international engineers, architects, designers, planners and project managers, could not only provide advice on the water and sewage plan, but other capital projects.

“One such project was the development of the Ottiwell A. Simmons Arbitration Centre which Milhouse proposed as a public private partnership at no cost to the government.

“A Memorandum of Understanding was entered into with Milhouse which delineated the responsibilities of each during this initiative to ensure its ultimate success.

“As part of the MOU, the Ministry introduced Milhouse to the team at the BBDA who in turn shared their research on Arbitration Centres globally. A local architect, Mr. Charles Daniels was engaged to develop plans for the building, based on the research of both parties.

“The result was a set of plans for a 5 story building that includes meeting rooms, office space, retail space on the first floor in accordance with the City of Hamilton plan, a cafeteria, elevators, underground parking with private access for those wishing to remain discrete, to entertainment space on the balcony for casual negotiations or receptions.

“The details of the financing of this project are being reviewed by the Ministry of Finance and as soon as we get the green light – the financing specifics of the project will likewise be reported. Construction is expected to begin in December 2020 and delivery of a complete building 15 months later in March 2022.

“This will be a world class facility with the potential to not only put Bermuda on the map as well as to encourage local lawyers to go into the arbitration field.”

Update 1.30pm: OBA Senator Dwayne Robinson said, “Bermudians are being left in the dark about financial details for the new arbitration centre. The Premier and Minister Burch must tell the public the cost and why they are overlooking Bermudian firms who could oversee the work.

“Ground-breaking took place yesterday, yet Minister Burch admitted that finances are still being finalised. How can that be? What are the terms of the PPP? What is the cost of building this? Interest will be charged, so what is the total payback cost? How long is the PPP for? How many millions of dollars will be paid to a US firm and not a Bermudian firm?

“The PLP just pledged to support local entrepreneurs and minority businesses, why wasn’t this project given to a local company? How is this putting Bermudians first?

“What plan does the Government have to ensure that this project will pay for itself? If it is not used as well as hoped, will Government make up any revenue shortfall?

“And I am stunned by a quote from Minister Burch, ‘I don’t even know if they have to go out to tender. They are a private entity. They didn’t go out to tender to hire the Bermudian architect that has done the plans for the project’.

“What is he saying? Is he suggesting that Milhouse will not try to get best value for money? Is he saying they may not use Bermudian firms?

“Also, when exactly, did they hire the architect that ‘has done the plans for the project’? How long ago was that? How long ago was this deal made?

“The hypocrisy of this Government is blatant and cannot be overstated. In the same breath they criticize the airport deal, while making an almost identical deal with a US firm.

“Where is the outrage over this? People who are voicing concern regarding the airport are woefully silent regarding the arbitration centre. Are we really living in a country with such blatant selective outrage?

“People can quote the airport contract and details to base their arguments whether they are in support of it or not. Try your best to quote some details about this PLP deal with Milhouse. Whether it is a good deal or not, the way it was conceived should concern every Bermudian.

“The Premier stated while giving himself a good report card, “When you’re in government, you have to play the hand which you’re dealt. We’ve not gotten the best hand, but we’ve played the hand pretty well.”

“These are interesting words. The hand the PLP was dealt were thriving capital projects such as the airport and the St. Regis hotel, along with record breaking tourism numbers. They inherited a budget that was well on its way to being a balanced budget.

“This is not tit for tat politics, I am in no way trying to justify one deal over the other but this Government still acts like an opposition consistently focused on holding the previous Government accountable while failing to deliver any real accomplishments to improve the lives of Bermudians.”

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Comments (11)

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  1. Drew Carey says:

    Ottiwell A. Simmons.

    C’mon down! You’re the next contestant on Friends and Family!

  2. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The details of the financing of this project are being reviewed by the Ministry of Finance”

    So we are not allowed to know those details

    “and as soon as we get the green light – the financing specifics of the project will likewise be reported.”

    Yes, after it is too late.

    So much for open Government.

  3. Guy Carri says:

    You guys are embarrassing and hypocrites.
    How the public has been so quiet on this is just as bad.
    We need foreign architects and engineers for an office building?!
    Now PPP is a good idea? With no RFP? Selected a company without knowing ANY of the details on what we’re giving away and for how long?
    This is a joke and sadly so is the PLP.
    Absolute hypocrites and they don’t have to hide it because their supporters won’t call them on it.

  4. Mark says:

    Are you kidding? island construction?!?! again…I just don’t get why people do not care at all about issues on this island. This government does it time and time again and people just turn a blind eye. SMH. Bermuda truly is another world.

  5. dunn juice says:

    So the PLP beat up OBA using AECON. IJS

  6. Ringmaster says:

    So this is a “rent to buy” project, no difference to paying down a loan. Presumably there is a revenue stream planned, but from where? Any International Arbitration Centre is purpose built just for that purpose. To maintain confidentiality of cases. You can’t have the public wondering around, and that includes anyone not directly employed for the Arbitrations. It sounds like it will mostly be a small claims court for local disputes so who is going to pay for it?

  7. Jack Archer says:

    A untendered no RFP PPP to an overseas firm which will make big profits from this … don’t people see the irony? are there no protests?

  8. Noah James says:

    where is the outrage on this? a non tendered PPP which will means millions of dollars going to an overseas firm ….. how much did we pay to clear the land for them as well?
    The sheer hypocrisy of this government is stunning

  9. Khalid Wasi says:

    I support the idea of an international arbitration center. I can’t say how over-due this idea is and hopefully not too late. I recall Dr. James proposing it probably in the 80′s I recall too him being raced out of Dodge, I’m sure most remember him losing to Stuart Hayward in 1989 and how Ferry Lands dumped Dr. James. I could not figure why such a great and timely idea was squashed with the rationale it would create too much demand for building space…..what? isn’t that what you would want? so what was the real rationale, why were they so against Dr. James’s idea?

  10. comfortably numb says:

    Well said Mr Robinson. With a glut of empty office buildings available to rent and who knows how much more office space becoming available as remote working increases why the need for an expensive new building? The airport deal, according to the PLP, was a bad deal but suddenly the same model becomes acceptable? Hypocrisy indeed!

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      This secret deal (“The details of the financing of this project are being reviewed by the Ministry of Finance”), like the new hospital project, is being done by the PLP Government and that makes all the difference in the world!