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Thursday, June 20, 2024


Aug. 15, 2001 – Cruise ships could be berthing at a new, extended Crown Bay dock as early as next March, the Port Authority Board was told Wednesday by representatives of the two cruise lines that will be building a new shopping center and expanding the present docking facilities.
At its July 18 meeting, the board approved a contract between the Port Authority and the Royal Caribbean and Carnival lines for the dock and shopping center development.
The $31 million project will now officially get under way, Gordon Finch, VIPA executive director, said as the board approved a letter of agreement at its Wednesday meeting. Although the letter spelling out the contract details still needed a final review by the cruise lines, Finch said, "This will allow them to begin spending dollars."
John F. Tercek, vice president for new business development for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said he would have the letter back to Finch with any revisions by Wednesday evening. The press was not allowed to see a copy of the multi-page letter in advance of any revisions to come.
The agreement calls for the two cruise lines to cover all costs and for the Port Authority to manage the property. The cost will be split evenly – $15.5 million each — for the dock expansion and the shopping center development. The cruise lines would retain 75 percent of tariffs from the development for the first 20 years of the agreement, which calls for a 50-year lease by the cruise lines, after which the property will revert to VIPA.
The shopping development is to be a 5,000-square-foot area for local businesses, with an emphasis on arts and crafts. Kent Bernier, Gov. W. Charles Turnbull's economic adviser, said the Economic Development Authority will coordinate the shopping center.
A Government House release distributed Aug. 1 announced that the Port Authority, the West Indian Co. and the Tourism Department had executed a long-term operating agreement with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association and its member lines. A task force of V.I. public- and private-sector members and representatives of the FCCA and its member lines worked for more than two years on the agreement as an alternative to the Virgin Islands increasing per-passenger docking fees.
One of the agreement's 13 points was that the cruise line or lines "to undertake seaside and land-based projects" in Crown Bay would "commit to the incremental passenger flow" needed to enable VIPA to finance the development.
At Wednesday's meeting, board member and Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood expressed grave concerns about how his department would be involved. "I see serious problems with the infrastructure — traffic lights, sewage, sidewalks," he said. "We don't have the funds to do all that." But Finch replied, "Let's not hamstring the cruise lines with all of that right now."
Bernier promised Callwood to bring the matter up with Property and Procurement Commissioner Marc Biggs at a Thursday cabinet meeting.
Tercek and Gioira Israel, Carnival Cruise Lines executive officer, were enthusiastic as they explained mutual goals for the area. Although there are always fewer cruise ships calls in the summer, Israel said, the expanded dock facilities will allow mega-ships to dock in Crown Bay, so ships that do call will carry greater numbers of passenger than now — about 3,000. Tercek said the agreement is unique; the cruise lines have no other like it anywhere.
The Crown Bay development has come under criticism from Edward Thomas, chief executive officer of the West Indian Co., and from downtown Charlotte Amalie retailers fearful that the development will deter passengers from shopping in town. Some critics have argued that the Port Authority should focus its energy on getting a cruise line to home port on St. Croix.
Israel said that before St. Croix could be a homeport, it needs more infrastructure and "it needs an anchor attraction — rain forests and beaches won't do it."
The board also heard from Triad Associates, an economic and community development consulting firm hired by VIPA to make an economic development study for St. Croix. John E. Corrigan, Triad senior associate, said he foresaw making St. Croix "the best business port in the Caribbean."
Board member and Attorney General Iver Stridiron expressed reservations about VIPA's involvement in the proposed development program laid out by Triad, which embraces 80 projects, 28 of them directly connected to the authority. "We have had so many grandiose schemes over the years," Stridiron said. "We overwhelm the public, and we don't do anything. Maybe we should just take one or two things and do them well."
He also suggested that a fundamental change in St. Croix's attitude toward outside investment would be an improvement. "Perhaps this isn't politically correct," he said, "but St. Croix doesn't embrace new projects; they reject them."
The Triad proposal envisions the development of an industrial business park on 100 acres adjacent to the Henry R. Rohlsen Airport, a theme park, convention centers, golf courses and casinos. The board debated how the study report should be implemented and how the public should be involved. The proposal would involve many government agencies, and require input from them all.
The board decided to accept the draft of the study report so that Triad can proceed with public hearings on its proposals. The draft is to be submitted to all public and private agencies involved, with a request that they respond by a given time.
Again, Bernier said he would bring the matter up at Thursday's cabinet meeting.
The press also was not allowed to obtain a copy of the Triad report. VIPA charges media representatives $15 for a copy of the agenda of each board meeting. Wednesday's agenda did not provide any information about either the Crown Bay development or the Triad study, except to list both as presentations under "Matters Requiring Board Action."
In other action, Hortense Rowe, Sen. Adelbert Bryan's chief of staff, asked the board to help sponsor Bryan's Economic Development Summit held on St. Thomas and St. Croix in July. Rowe placed the cost at $100,000 and said Bryan's Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs contributed $20,000. The board referred the request to its finance committee.
Attending the meeting were the board chair, Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards; Stridiron, Callwood, Kent Bernier and Leslie Milliner. Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett was absent.

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