Nov. 8, 2006 — After sitting dormant for two years, a 300-room Smith Bay hotel will reopen in the spring as the Crowne Plaza Resort, a five-star property of InterContinental Hotels and Resorts.
"It's great to get those rooms back into inventory," Luana Wheatley, marketing director at the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association, said Wednesday.
She said that a hotel with a brand name is a definite plus for the territory, especially since guests will be able to book via InterContinental's website.
Wheatley said that while the hotel will increase the number of hotel rooms available to tourists, it also means jobs for local residents.
The resort first opened about 20 years ago. In the interim, it's gone through several name, ownership and management changes. For several years it operated as the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort, which is what most residents still call it.
A Mexico-based company, Palace Resorts, bought the Renaissance in 2003, but operated it only as the Grand Beach Palace for less than a year before shutting it down for renovations.
After an announcement was made about the proposed closure, the Legislature called hearings. After the hearings, Palace attorney Derek Hodge said government hostility convinced Palace officials not to reopen the property. It then went on the market.
John Murphy, who served as the owner's representative for the latest sale and is organizing the refurbishment, said the price tag was $17.5 million. He said the sale was in the works for a year, but complications on the part of the seller delayed closing the deal.
Murphy said the purchasing company is Pineapple Palm LLC, which is a local company with longtime St. Thomas resident William Graulich as a partner.
He referred further questions to Graulich, who did not return several phone messages left for him at his New Jersey office.
Murphy, who once served as the hotel's manager, said the rehabilitation of the project is already under way. "We're hitting the ground running. To reopen the hotel is a big job," he said.
Murphy said the hotel will hire about 250 to 350 people, depending on the season.
InterContinental also operates Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites brand properties.
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