Gov. Kenneth Mapp captured the attention of St. Croix Chamber of Commerce business people Thursday with promises to build a four star hotel, a mid-island sports complex and racetrack, a Frederiksted stadium, to repair roads and more, adding that the downtown casino won’t open until 75 rooms and a banquet facility have been built.
“Put your money in and do the construction,” he said. “ We can’t say open the casino now and then build the rooms.”
Mapp spoke to a breakfast meeting at the Palms at the Pelican Cove and outlined plans for capital investment by the government for St. Croix.
The governor has formed a transition team to help locate a site for a 250-300 room, four-star facility, he said. The government will finance and own the hotel but not operate the facility.
Legislation to authorize the partnership and financing will be introduced this summer, financing will be in place by fall and construction will begin next year, Mapp said.
The governor’s transition team comprises Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty; Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens; Simon Jones-Hendrickson, senior financial advisor to the governor; attorneys Emile Henderson and Joel Holt; business owners Jack Pickle and Elizabeth Armstrong; and a representative from consulting firm HVS International.
Mapp also unveiled drawings of a capital improvement project on St. Croix’s West end. Not only will the Paul E. Joseph stadium be renovated at a cost of $20 million, he said, but also the town of Frederiksted and the waterfront will see a makeover with an additional $15 million.
The town drawing contains two new hotels and a canal from the sea inland just north of Fort Frederick, which will be cleaned and restored, as well, the governor said.
The 1,800-seat, three-story stadium north of Frederiksted will be suitable for concerts, other events and contain retail space. Mapp said the government will purchase additional land for soccer fields, tennis and other enhancements around the stadium.
“This project will begin this year,” Mapp stated.
In addition to the stadium renovation, Mapp plans to centralize and build a sports center and racetrack on government land near the University of the Virgin Islands and St. Croix Educational Complex. Funding will be included in the territory’s capital budget, he said.
According to Mapp, $95 million is available for road projects, including repairs to roads, lighting and signage with funding from Garvee bonds. Projects funded by the bonds are managed by the Federal Highway Administration and must be repaid with federal funds in the future.
St. Croix will receive more than half of the funding and $40 million will be split between St. Thomas and St. John. The governor said legislation to purchase equipment and hire workers will be submitted this month.
The east side of the island will also receive upgrades, the governor said. There are plans to build retail space and a boardwalk from Gallows Bay to Christiansted in conjunction with the V.I. Port Authority.
East of Gallows Bay, the park at Altoona Lagoon is scheduled for cleanup and the governor plans to raise $6 million for work at Cramer’s Park.
Mapp was applauded several times during his talk. The first time was when he announced he is working to get direct flights between New York City and St. Croix and then again when he talked about the police force and increased security for downtown Christiansted.
Ninety-six new policemen, who will be mentored by the New York City Police Department, will be hired and trained on foot patrol in Christiansted, Mapp said, adding that one to two million dollars will be spent on cameras with facial recognition and the ability to read license plates.
Additionally the VIPD will launch a police cadet program in the high schools with a stipend for students who work in the summer and college tuition for those who commit to five years service with the VIPD.
The governor also announced:
– The recently licensed casino in the Hotel Caravelle won’t be allowed to open until all 75 hotels rooms and a banquet facility have been constructed and certified. Otherwise, the corporation will be using earnings from residents to make its required investment, he said.
– Energy production, including the use of wind, is being planned for the south shore.
– Tar for roadwork will be produced at the former Hovensa refinery.
– Eighty of the 120 residences owned by the government adjacent to the refinery have been leased for two years for $2.7 million.
– In response to a question from the audience about the Internet “bridge to nowhere,” Mapp promised to host a meeting at Government House with representatives from the V.I. Next Generation Network and Internet service providers to determine the issues delaying faster and better service to residents.
– UVI is still committed to build a medical school and will reapply for a certificate.
Without itemizing funding sources, the governor said several times during his talk that he is looking for “partners in the private sector.”