July 14, 2002 – The idea that waste recovery can provide options for stimulating St. Croix's economy is one the new owners of the old St. Croix Alumina property are taking to the public — in the hope of attracting tenants to their planned industrial park, but also out of a desire to see the community buy into their vision.
Myron Allick, a Crucian native, and his St. Croix Renaissance Group associates made their pitch to about 80 people at a meeting hosted by Our Town Frederiksted at St. Gerard's Hall on Thursday evening, outlining their plans for solving the island's waste-management problems through industrial development of what they are calling St. Croix Renaissance Park.
The Renaissance Group is a partnership of Boston-based Brownfields Recovery Corp., Energy Answers Corp. of Puerto Rico, and Allick, who is vice president for project development. It purchased the 1,224-acre onetime Martin Marietta property from Alcoa World Aluminum and Chemical Corp. in June.
"What we are aiming for is a zero-waste site," Patrick Mahoney, president of Energy Answers, said. He explained that the Renaissance Group is seeking to attract companies that can coexist environmentally, with one firm's waste being recycled by another.
The South Shore property, the partners said, includes three miles of water lines, two miles of steam pipes, five miles of roads, more than a hundred storage tanks for liquids and solids, and two 30-ton cranes to onload and offload cargo vessels at the deep-water port.
"What's good about it is we can offer full economic recovery in a short space of time because of the existing infrastructure," Allick said. He and Mahoney said their plans for the site are evolving, and they hope to attract as many appropriate local businesses as possible. They also said they want to garner input from the community so as to develop an environmentally friendly facility.
Allick described his relationship spanning more than a decade with David Mugar, owner of Starfish Market on St. John and co-founder of Brownfields. Allick was general manager of Starfish before returning to St. Croix this year as a Renaissance partner.
Mugar co-founded Brownfields six years ago as an offshoot of his own mainland real estate development and management firm and of an environmental engineering firm. The company was created to acquire, clean up and redevelop environmentally impacted properties.
EnergyAnswers, a subsidiary of an Albany, N.Y., firm, is involved in setting up a resource-recovery facility in Puerto Rico that can process 2,000 tons of waste a day. Mahoney, who also is president of the parent company, has said it specializes in "resource recovery of buildings and wastewater."
The St. Croix Renaissance Park property; zoned heavy industrial, can provide commercial tenants with desalinized water, cost-effective energy, extensive storage capacity, access to the highway and shipping lanes and a dependable infrastructure to support cruise services, Mahoney and Allick told the Our Town Fredriksted audience. But in addition to its 300 industrial acres, they said, the park will include a cruise port, agricultural storage and export facility, jogging and walking trails, family recreation center and a gold course.
"Nowhere in the world can you walk off a cruise ship right onto an 18-hole golf course," Mahoney said.
"We can store anything that the farmers can produce," Allick said, noting that Farmers in Action is one of the community groups providing input for the project. The local company Caribbean Infra Tech has been the lead agency in ensuring that environmental issues are addressed in the development plans, the partners said.
"We are in the resource recovery business," Mahoney said. He said the property contains a 60-megawatt power plant, a sophisticated machine shop and a desalinization plant which can produce 1.5 million gallons of water per day. "We have applied for a license to provide water to local haulers for commercial distribution.We are providing utility services that can make it profitable for businesses to exist," he said.
"WAPA can provide power for 13 cents per kilowatt and we can do it for 7 cents," Mahoney said. But he added that Renaissance has no plans to compete with the Water and Power Authority. He said the electrical plant will provide power for the Renaissance Park tenant industries and could serve as a backup for Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
The Renaissance officials described their three-phase plan to bring the utilities online, step up marketing efforts and implement job-skills training.
"You are giving us a lot to swallow," Alice Henry, Our Town Frederiksted director, said. "I tend to be skeptical when you outline all these plans," she added, asking for a timeline for the projected development.
On display at the meeting were color photographs, the proposal the company submitted to the V.I. government for interim waste-management after the Anguilla landfill is closed, and a map showing long-term site management plans for wetland restoration, reforestation, wildlife preservation and historic preservation sites.
The company's interim waste disposal bid was unsuccessful, but Mahoney said Renaissance has a contract with the government to operate the wastewater treatment plant at Anguilla which has been closed for two years.
The partners said a group of Danish artisans will renovate the 18th century Danish great house on the property. Wayne James, St. Croix businessman and founder of the Homeward Bound Foundation, has arranged for the Danes to undertake the work on the home, built in 1755 in what was known as "Spanish Town."
Allick said the partners decided on what they wanted to accomplish first, and then went looking for the right place to do it. "Last year, we set out to locate real estate on St. Croix," he said. "With this site, everything fell into place."
He said they submitted a bid on the site to Alcoa in April and the final purchase agreement was signed on June 14.
"We need stable power. That's one of the things that is hurting us," said Hope Gibson, a local telecommunications consultant.
Realtor and farmer Carl Christopher said many people don't realize that when investors look at St. Croix, "we are not favorable for them. Certain industries need consistent power."
Eszart Wynter, a lawyer, said he had been on a cruise which included a stop at St. Lucia but none at St. Croix. When he asked why the Virgin Island was not a port of call, "What this man told me is that St. Croix does not have the infrastructure," he said.
One resident described a recent study on the use of the "Tan Tan" bush, a prolific shrub with flat brown pods, as a fuel.
The partners said they have offered a section of the property to the University of the Virgin Islands for its new research and technology park, as an alternative to farmland donated by the government. They said the planned research center can be an incubator for budding entrepreneurs and companies seeking to expand in the Caribbean, and serve as a catalyst for expanding the local job pool.
Allick said discussions are under way with the Labor and Education Departments and the University of the Virgin Islands that the partners hope will lead to the development of a vocational training program.
Interest in setting up in the new industrial park has been expressed, the partners said, by a shrimp farming enterprise, a concrete plant, and a brick and tile production company that is proposing to utilize the red clay on the property that was a byproduct of the alumina manufacturing process. The partners envision the mix also including bulk material storage, boat building, aquaculture and cruise line homeporting.
Victor Somme, V.I. Energy Office director, asked about the possibility of recycling the effluent being piped to the sea from the Cruzan Rum distillery in Estate Diamond. "We've had prel
iminary discussion with Cruzan Rum, and we can offer a solution," Mahoney said.
Environmental adviser Liz Goggins told the gathering that Puerto Rico's Bacardi Rum uses its effluent to power its distillation plant.
Although Renaissance did not get the interim waste-disposal contract, Mary Mahoney said the partners are optimistic that their company can play a part in recycling waste on St. Croix.
She said Energy Answers has been involved in converting landfills to new uses. The plan Renaissance submitted, she said, called for residents to sort their waste and deposit it in designated bins for newspapers, plastics, glass and metals, as is done widely on the mainland. The island's contract haulers could then transport the sorted refuse to the group's recycling plant. The proposal included recycling of glass, composting, and managing hurricane waste, junk cars and tires, she said.
For more information about the partnering companies visit the Brownfields Recovery and Energy Answers web sites.
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