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Vet Center Construction to Begin Soon, Senators Told

Aug. 11, 2004 – Ground will be broken soon for the Veterans Resource and Multipurpose Center that is to be built on the site of the former Virgin Isle Hotel on St. Thomas, the Senate Labor and Veterans Affairs Committee was told on Wednesday.
Samuel Ebbesen, president of Veterans Resource and Development Inc., the company in charge of developing the center, told the committee that all permits necessary for work to begin have been obtained.
"Construction is ready to commence" on the 16-acre site in Upper John Dunkoe, Ebbesen said, as soon as the go-ahead is given by the developer, Wilder Balder.
The project has been in the works since 2001. The proposed facility is to include low-income housing for veterans and a medical clinic.
About 163 residential units will be constructed and, because VRD is receiving tax credits, the housing must be open to the public, Ebbesen said. However, he said, local veterans will be given priority.
Construction of the overall facility is expected to take 17 months, he said, but the residential "bungalows" should be ready for occupancy within six to eight months. He also said rumors that the facility will just be another set of condominiums are untrue.
"Most important to me is that the veterans will be able to receive their health care here, instead of having the expense of going abroad," Ebbesen said.
Currently, most veterans must seek off-island care at veterans hospitals, the nearest being in Puerto Rico. With the health-care facility to be built, veterans seeking treatment will be directed to the territory's hospitals for care, Ebbesen said, and money now being used for off-island medical visits will remain in the territory.
Ebbesen said the center will be a state-of-the-art facility. "People who visit this place will know that we care about our veterans," he said. "They served this country, and we should do nothing less than give them the finest facilities."
The facility is expected to cost about $30 million. Veterans Resource and Development has received a $1.7 million grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank, a $3.9 million Community Trust loan, $22 million in equity from Alliant Capital and a $100,000 loan from the Legislature. And the developer has invested $600,000 in the project.
Revenues of the housing portion of the facility are to be used for repaying the loan, Ebbesen said. Because VRD is a not-for-profit organization, the veterans facility will receive a five-year tax break, he said. Meantime, he is pushing for legislation to allow the facility a 20-year tax exemption.
"This is the only way we can keep the dwelling units at low-income rates to our veterans," Ebbesen said.

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