86.8 F
Cruz Bay
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesGolden Gets Another Shot at St. Croix Conference Center

Golden Gets Another Shot at St. Croix Conference Center

Jan. 30, 2008 — Funding for the construction of a $32.5 million conference center on St. Croix is now back in the hands of hotel developer Paul Golden, provided that he meets certain conditions laid out Wednesday by the Public Finance Authority board.
The stability of Golden's project — a 400-room resort and casino near St. Croix's Great Pond — had generated concerns over the past few months for board members, who voted in early July to put the conference center out for bid. At that point, Golden had failed to meet several deadline extensions to obtain the financing needed to break ground on the project, nullifying the authority's previous resolution to build the facility in conjunction with Golden's resort. (See "Golden Resorts Dropped as Partner in Proposed Convention Center.")
At the time, the board said it had received letters from two other developers interested in bidding on the conference center. A request for proposals subsequently sent out by the PFA netted at least eight responses, said Julito Francis, the authority's director of finance and administration, on Wednesday. However, only Golden's proposal met most of the criteria laid out in the RFP, which asked for developers to show, among other things, whether they had obtained most or all of their Coastal Zone Management permits, had set a project start date and could demonstrate their need for the government funds.
Construction of a conference center on St. Croix is anticipated to bring in an additional $15 million to $20 million for the local government, Francis said after Wednesday's meeting.
A few of the proposals, such as those received from the Betty's Hope Development Association and Divi Carina Bay Resort, indicated that the PFA's assistance would help push along future projects planned for St. Croix, but were not necessarily required, Francis explained. Others, such as the proposed Robin Bay development, had not yet secured their CZM permits or failed to respond the PFA's requests for more information, he added.
Acting on recommendations from its bond counsel and financial advisors, the PFA board unanimously voted to turn the center back over to Golden, but decided to take a more hands-on approach to managing the project. The authority, for example, would work with its legal counsel to verify that Golden has all of his CZM permits in place and is close to settling the two lawsuits currently pending against him. Additionally, Golden would also have to present a final financing package for his $240 million endeavor by the end of March — the same financing deadline included in the management contract executed between Golden Resorts and a still-unidentified hotel chain.
Speaking after the meeting, Gov. John deJongh Jr. — the board's chairman — said that he recently had to opportunity to review Golden's investment plan, and felt "much more comfortable" turning the project back over "now that the financing is in place."
Controversy sparked a few months ago after Golden defaulted on a $15-million loan from Silver Point Capital Partners, for which he had mortgaged the land holdings of his casino-development company. After Wednesday's meeting, however, Golden said he had repaid the loan in full and had secured another $57.4 million from an unidentified "equity backer."
In July, Golden said he had signed off on an agreement with one backer for a $125-million construction loan, which could eventually increase to $140 million in long-term financing. The government, however, would have to be listed as an insured party on the construction guarantee, PFA board members decided Wednesday.
Coupled with his own contributions to the project, there are currently enough funds in place to meet the PFA's March 31 deadline, Golden said after the meeting.
"Golden Resorts is very pleased that it was selected through this open and competitive bidding process and found by the PFA to have fulfilled all criteria, and also to have been determined as the best candidate for the construction of the conference center," he said. "The St. Croix conference center will become an integral part of stimulating the island's economy. We're very excited."
Board members present during Wednesday's meeting were deJongh, Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb and Watson-Anderson. Board member Roy D. Jackson was absent.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

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.