Barrier Reef Hotel being demolished

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 21            May 31, 2001

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Architect's sketch of proposed new building

The sad news this week is another San Pedro landmark is seeing the end of its era. The Barrier Reef Hotel, like so many things, has seen better days. Originally constructed in the 30s, nature and time have taken their toll and it will soon be just a memory.

   The good news is the replacement structure will resemble "as closely as possible" the hotel's original colonial-style architecture when finished. The building and land are the property of Provident Bank. In an interview with the San Pedro Sun this week, Mr. Jerry McDermott, a director of Provident Bank, told the newspaper that he had sincerely hoped to preserve the building. "We hoped to perpetuate it as it was," he stated and insisted that every option was studied to this means. Unfortunately, the hotel was found to be in a sad state of repair. In addition, the foundation was not structurally sound, making the building unsafe. Mr. McDermott said termites had "made a meal out of the wooden beams," and that most of the wood would not be salvageable. He added the hotel's wiring and plumbing needed to be completely replaced as well.

    Contrary to rumors, there are no plans for a casino on the site. Provident Group plans to lease the new structure to Alliance Bank for their San Pedro branch which will employ approximately a dozen people. Mr. McDermott also confirmed Alliance will occupy the entire building space. "We hope to make the town proud," he explained, adding the lobby will be a type of "museum" complete with local artifacts and old San Pedro family photographs, providing a warm and friendly welcome to customers. The building will be the same height with a peaked third floor similar to the original design of the hotel. Plans for the courtyard area behind the hotel, the former swimming pool location, are uncertain at this time.

    Demolition is already underway on the peak of the building. After approval from the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee, the project should be completed within a month or two. So, while the interior will be "state-of-the-art," it may be comforting to some to know that the exterior will display a look similar to the original Blake family house.
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