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Wednesday, April 17, 2024


April 6, 2001 — The long-delayed Carifest theme park has been held up yet again, but it's not dead yet.
Eric Matthews, founding member and president of Carifest Corporation, responded this week to a report that the group's lease would not be extended, saying "it means paying rent" although actual construction on the project has not started. But it does not mean the project needs a new home.
"We're in the midst of hopefully closing on our financial arrangements," he said.
Carifest received its major Coastal Zone Management permit in November to build a cultural theme park on 9.1 acres of land it is leasing from the West Indian Co. Ltd., next door to the cruise ship dock.
The permit expires if Carifest does not begin construction within 12 months of the date of issuance.
The lease agreement between WICO and Carifest also contains deadlines, and Carifest has bumped up against those.
The lease calls for Carifest to invest at least $28 million in the park. Within a year of the commencement of the lease (June 25, 1999) it is to begin paying $123,000 annual "construction stage" rent, whether construction has actually started or not. Once the park opens for business — or within 30 months of the commencement of the lease — the rent goes to $410,000 per year, plus 2 percent of gross sales and revenues monthly. It is a 50-year lease with provisions for extensions.
This is actually the second lease Carifest has had with WICO. Eight months after the first lease was signed, the project fell victim to Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, when revenue streams dried up for storm-ravaged St. Thomas.
The current lease was issued with several contingencies, including that Carifest obtain government approvals, prepare building plans and show proof of financing within 2-1/2 years.
WICO granted some extensions to Carifest, but WICO President and CEO Edward Thomas recently told WICO stockholders, the Public Finance Authority board, that WICO had notified Carifest it will not make another extension when the current one expires May 1.
Neither Matthews nor Thomas would discuss exactly what terms of the lease were extended.
But WICO spokesman Calvin Wheatley said of the project, "We hope it's going to continue."
The CZM permit for Carifest describes it as being composed of 17 venues:
– A Welcome Center (with three buildings)
– A West Indian Emporium (one building)
– Carnival Arts and Exhibits (one building)
– Caribbean Theater (one building)
– Pride of Africa (one building)
– Marketplace (one building)
– Aviary and Butterfly (two buildings)
– Olde Fort (one building)
– Great House Restaurant (one building)
– Harbor Town/Pirates Club (one building)
– Pirate Haven Stunt Show (one building)
– Sugar Mill Point (one building)
– Birth of the Caribbean Ride (two buildings)
– Folklore Village (10 buildings)
– Pre-Columbian Exhibit (six structures)
– Parking garage (one building)
– Service Yard (one building).

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