While there are still numerous dilapidated and destroyed buildings in Frederiksted – damaged during recent hurricanes and prior – there is also a renaissance of sorts occurring, especially in the town itself.
“The general feeling is that outsiders see the potential,” Addison Christian, the president of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, told the Source.
The entire block between Strand and King Streets and bordered by Market Street and the Customs House is being turned into Strand Square and will house 20 businesses, according to Diane Burns, Coldwell Banker realtor. There will be four dive shops, several restaurants and kiosks for vendors.
The side of the street facing the waterfront is already full of retail shops, corporations receiving economic development benefits, and a real estate company, and there is ongoing construction in the few empty storefronts.
Across the street, scaffolding and caution tape in front of Customs House are testimony to the work being done to convert the iconic, historic building into a museum and restaurant. It is unusual for the government to lease a public building to a private business, Burns said.
Around the corner, workers are painting and renovating the USO building on Market Street behind First Bank. The charming, historic building has long been in disrepair, but Burns said she believes the local government is responsible for the restoration.
Further south on Strand Street, a new restaurant, Louie and Nachos, is doing booming business and next door, The Fred is spreading its wings. Twelve rooms are completed and a restaurant and more rooms are under construction.
Across the street, the former Frederiksted Hotel has been purchased and upgraded and now is called the Inn on Strand.
East of the waterfront on Hospital Street, The Fred Hotel has purchased and renovated Liberty Hall. They also purchased a building behind Liberty Hall on Prince Street for a high-energy gym and Burns said she and partners will convert the former market across the street into a community art space.
North on Prince Street, Jasmine Manor was sold after the 2017 hurricanes and the new owners plan to upgrade the historic property, according to Burns.
“Anytime you have revitalization, it is important to have urban development – people living in the area,” Burns said, adding that “people are waiting in line” to buy Frederiksted homes, in and outside of town.
The town is somewhat booming, but the unsightly skeletons of the past remain to remind visitors and residents of the slow reaction time of some property owners and the government. The old hospital and Aldersville Home for the Aged that flank Frederiksted Health Care on Strand Street have been crumbling for years and appear past the point of repair.
Verne I. Richards Veterans Park on the waterfront has barely been cleaned of debris since the Category 5 storms hit; an old water meter was left behind after being replaced. There are broken columns lining the waterfront with rusting chain that threatens to contract and pull over the columns and at least one downed tree remains along with pergolas in desperate need of repair and paint. FEDA’s Bridget Dawson said she was told the tree can’t be removed because a new law prohibits cutting certain trees and because the tree has started re-growing roots.
Other rundown properties, owned by private entities, are not being rebuilt for several reasons, Christian said. Property owners have no access to funding to rebuild and are not sure they will get a return on their investment if they do. Even partnering with a bank or other business does not ensure they will recoup their money. Christian said he would like to see the government assist property owners with drawing plans to rebuild to get people started. He also believes that the Legislature and governor’s office should amend the law to require residents to keep their property clean.
Christian and Dawson are keeping track of all the activity. They hope to build the organization’s membership and start working on Veteran’s Park. Christian is hoping to get lights in the park repaired by the end of the year.
“The lead has to come from the private sector – the business owners, the property owners,” Christian said.
FEDA was formed in 1996 to “enhance the development of town and preserve the culture,” Dawson said. The 501-c3 organization lost members after the Hovensa refinery closed and non-profits lost funding.
Christian has been involved with FEDA since 2003 and was voted president in January. Since then, he said he has been walking the streets of Frederiksted every week, meeting prospective members.
There have been rumors of other development on the West End. The Source has been unable to confirm that Carambola Hotel has been sold and Christian said he has been unable to learn if the government plans to begin construction at the Paul E. Joseph Stadium in the near future.
See more about the revitalization effort here: Frederiksted Today