76 F
Cruz Bay
Friday, February 3, 2023


Oct. 19, 2001 – There was a strong turnout, a lot of questions and concerns, and a decided reluctance to talk about design before deciding on function at Thursday night's meeting to share information and solicit input on the vendors plaza and parking facility proposed for some 35,000 square feet of space across from the Cruz Bay barge dock.
The meeting was hosted by St. John's Gateway Planning Council in cooperation with St. John Adminstrator Julien Harley's office.
Harley started the discussion off by clearing the air about controversial plans to expand the Cruz Bay post office onto the adjacent land by the Tourism office. Citing public protests of the plans in July, he said the expansion project has been shelved.
Moving then to the meeting agenda, Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd said the concept of a vendors plaza originated 10 years ago with late basketmaker Herman Prince. The idea was to create a centralized location for vendors to show their arts and crafts and to foster entrepreneurship. Liburd said the Legislature has appropriated $1.2 million dollars for the project, and the government is looking to receive $400,000 a year in parking and vendor rental revenues.
"This money will go back into the St. John Fund," Liburd said.
The Gateway Planning Council was formed last year as a partnership of the local government, the National Park Service and the Cruz Bay community to develop and implement plans for improving the downtown area which is host to large numbers of visitors who come to St. John to visit the V.I. National Park.
Keith Richards, representing the administration's Capital Improvement Committee, described the vendors plaza and parking facility plan as multi-phased, with accelerated bid requests and submissions and then contractor and architectural review meetings to take place by the end of this year.
He said the committee hopes to have a final draft design by Jan. 28, 2002, with the focus on parking as the primary concern. If all goes as planned, construction would begin next April, with the work expected to take six months. There will be opportunities for community input, he said, and government officials plan to consult with a community advisory committee during the design and construction phases.
The meeting was well attended by owners of Cruz Bay businesses, most of them tourism-related, and by local vendors interested in space in the proposed facility.
The attendees included three of the four business owners who currently lease space and operate businesses where the proposed facility would be built. Car-rental agency owners were anxious to know where they would fit into the plan. There was extensive discussion between the business operators and the representative authorities about the goals and practical functions of the proposed building.
Many wanted to discuss parking problems in town, rental car staging issues and vendor relocation before moving on to how the building should look. It was estimated that the vacant land currently has space for about 20 cars; an hour into the meeting, Harley said the government proposes to fit about a hundred vehicles in the new parking structure.
No one knew the current number of public parking spaces in Cruz Bay, but everyone agreed parking is a major problem. There was disagreement on whether the facility should be for vending or parking or both. Arthur Hercules, owner of Hercules Pate Delight, said he would "welcome this project one hundred percent. It is long overdue, we need it and we deserve it." Hercules Pate Delight is one of the "mobile" food vendors the government proposes to re-locate to the space currently occupied by Innovative Telephone.
Harley said the government has written to Innovative about moving but has not heard back from the company. Innovative is paying the government $1 a year for the prime rental space and has eight years left on its lease. The goal is to relocate all the food vendors to this area, thereby creating a food court, Harley said.
The government also plans to coordinate and finance the temporary relocation of the four vendors currently doing business on the proposed parking facility site: the Nature's Nook and Our Market produce stands, W&W Fast Food, and Denzil Clyne Car Rental. The businesses are to be moved to the current site of the Motor Vehicles Bureau inspection lane, once the trailer there is removed.
One of those business owners, Thomas Matthias, wanted confirmation that as a current lessee he will have right of first refusal when the new vendor space is available. Harley deferred to Joseph Poteen, a Property and Procurement Department attorney, on the legal logistics but confirmed they would be given preference.
With one car-rental agency currently occupying space in the proposed facility area, including parking its rental cars there, there was discussion of whether the new space would accommodate other rental cars.
Many in attendance were more interested in how many vendors the building will accommodate than in the building's design. Andrew Penn asked how fair market value would be determined in setting rent for vendors, concerned that established businesses could be hurt if the rents were too generously subsidized. Richards responded that the governor is committed to supporting vendors and to creating new opportunities outside of traditional business ventures. But, he added, government authorities do not see the facility as a site of "cheap" vending places.
At one point, Harley told those present to stop complaining and instead to take the opportunity to resolve their frustrations by telling the government representatives what they want. "The project is going to happen," he said. "The question is, what do you want it to look like? This is your project; we are just the facilitators to bring forth your ideas."
Albert Willis, who is in the process of relocating his car-rental agency to private property, said, "We don't really need more rental space on St. John. We need more parking."
Architect Rob Crane said the proposed site "is the front door to our island, and I've concluded that this particular space is not where the parking should be." He suggested instead the area by the public tennis courts. He also pointed out that with the current budget of $1.2 million, "You would have to build it for $30 a square foot. You can't build anything on St. John for that."
Realtor Margie LaBrenz said as far as design, she would like to see something open, perhaps an atrium.
Lorelei Monsanto said, "I don't want to see a big, overgrown tacky building in Cruz Bay."
Business owner Doug Ehle said, "We already have some large façades in Cruz Bay, so a nice, large façade is important, something like Mongoose." He suggested soliciting preliminary designs from several local architects to see what they come up with.
Many of those present wanted more answers to questions before offering comments on the facility's design. Steve Black suggested that the Gateway Planning Council issue a notice or send out letters asking who would like to lease vendor space, and for what type of business. That way, he said, "everyone has a better idea of how many operators want to be part of the project."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.