St. Thomas-St. John Historic Preservation Committee members on Tuesday approved projects at three buildings that touch the heart of what Charlotte Amalie is all about.
The St. Thomas Synagogue, which has sat at 16 Crystal Gade, halfway up the downtown hill, since 1833, has smacked into modern times. Agnes Rampino, representing the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, outlined security features the synagogue was adding. They included cameras, a steel door, a safe room, and an escape door at the back of the synagogue. She said members had become familiar with active shooter scenarios. She added that nothing was being changed in the sanctuary.
Committee Member Enrique Rodriguez called the synagogue “one of the most significant buildings in the territory.” He said he understood the need for cameras but expressed concerns that security contractors don’t often have a feel for aesthetics.
The motion approving the cameras and the modification to the administrative offices added onto the synagogue stated that cameras had to be installed in a manner that let them blend in with no unseemly wires or tubing or unobtrusive mountings.
Residents and tourists who get exercise climbing St. Thomas’s renowned 99 steps leading from Kongens Gade to Blackbeard’s Hill will get a bit of modernity in their trek too. Climbers have for decades been treated on their right to a vision of dilapidated buildings overgrown with bushes and old mango trees. Owners of that property are proposing to rehabilitate the buildings in that area, remove trees, and add gates and a swimming pool.
Kevin Qualls of Springline Architects presented revised plans to the Committee. He had presented original plans to the committee in October. The Committee approved the demolition of one of the two cottages on the land that developers previously thought could be rehabilitated. It will be rebuilt from the foundation up. The other cottage, which is in better shape, will be renovated.
The approval came with the caveat that this was not an approval of the overall plan, which would include the renovation of the main house near the top of the stairs. Qualls said the owners were working with the Department of Public Works, which is planning work on the 99 steps themselves. (The steps were featured in a best-selling novel of the 1960s – Don’t Stop the Carnival.)
The property belongs to George Dudley and Susan Lugo.
The International Plaza, which is located next to the Greenhouse restaurant on the waterfront and stretches to Main Street, has suffered from age and hurricanes. Chad Voight and Tom Avitable were at the Committee presenting plans to renovate the building, which is in the center of Charlotte Amalie shopping district.
Committee members William Newbold and David Knight call the project a major development in the downtown. Knight called it a hybrid building with some historic parts and some modern sections. The developers were asking for approval for a sign, glass awnings, the placement of solar panels, and materials used for the façade and flooring. They received approval for most of what they wanted. However, there were questions about whether the back lite sign passed historic district code requirements. There was also a long discussion about the possibility of installing red solar panels that the commission had just learned were available.
The Historic Preservation Committee also approved a revised application submitted by Chanteel Daniels, Jabari Carrington, and First Choice Maintenance for a site listed as Commandant Gade O.V. 7-B (on Bred Gade). The original request was to demolish the building. The revised request is to renovate the building and add a second story.