Wedco: decision time for Albert Row

  • Last ditch appeal: Albert Row in Sandys, which is on the verge of demolition unless restoration support comes forward (Photograph supplied)

An historic terrace of homes outside Dockyard must either be refurbished or face the wrecking ball, according to the West End Development Corporation.

Leaving the ageing Albert Row buildings standing would be “not only unsightly but also dangerous and unhealthy”, according to Joanna Cranfield, Wedco’s business development manager.

Built between 1845 and 1860, Albert Row on Ireland Island South once housed a working-class community of Dockyard tradesmen and their families.

According to the National Museum of Bermuda, it is the only surviving example of such housing in Bermuda, and is “extremely rare” among British Dockyard worldwide.

In a statement this weekend, Ms Cranfield said that bringing Albert Row up to modern standards would cost more than $10 million, which was “not a financially viable project”.

She added that a developer for the buildings had been sought for “at least 15 years”.

Wedco demolished the nearby 19th-century housing at Victoria Row in 2016 over the houses’ poor condition. The Albert Row buildings have 16 two-bed homes arranged in four blocks.

Wedco has stipulated that any plan must include the repair and re-roofing of the buildings, as well as maintaining their historic appearance.

Attempts with various organisations to restore Albert Row date back to 2004.

Ms Cranfield said that Wedco held out hope for “people or organisations out there who will read this and come forward with workable solutions, inclusive of financial commitment”.

But she said that without an offer within “a reasonable timeframe”, Wedco would have to either leave the buildings derelict, or apply to have the buildings delisted and then apply for a demolition order.

Albert Row, which was under rent control with rents between $850 and $1,200, had its tenants moved out in 2013.

According to Wedco, both the Bermuda National Trust and the Naval Dockyard Society in the UK were unable to assist.

But Ann Coats, chairwoman of the Naval Dockyards Society, criticised Wedco in 2016 for seeking help from an external investor when “they have historically left the houses to neglect since 2009”.

The $10 million figure cited by Wedco factors in connecting each unit to the Dockyard infrastructure and bringing them to planning code.

Proposals for development have been pitched by construction companies as well as a real estate firm, but have repeatedly fallen short on financing.