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Applications Approved, Steps Taken to Revitalize Three St. Thomas Historical Structures

Applications to repair two historic buildings near Lionel Roberts Stadium and Old Town Charlotte Amalie were approved by the Historic Preservation Commission at its meeting Tuesday. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)

Two treasured pieces of Virgin Islands property won approval from the Historic Preservation Commission for renovation and repairs. Members of the commission met Tuesday to review plans and consider applications from properties in and around Charlotte Amalie.

Among those up for consideration were Drakes Passage Shopping Mall and the former J. Antonio Jarvis School near the Lionel Roberts Stadium. Both properties date back to the era of the Danish West Indies.

An association of community groups has been working to revitalize the 171-year-old Jarvis School and a smaller, adjacent building into an educational and cultural center, said author, historian and Managing Director of the Enterprise Zone Commission Nadine Marchena-Kean.

Kean listed several areas where the school needed repairs and upgrades. “We have several challenges with this particular building,” Kean said.

She added that the adjacent building — known as Building B — had fewer issues to address.

Planning and Natural Resources Historic Preservation Deputy Director Sean Krigger praised the revitalization efforts made so far. “It is a wonderful project. We look forward to continuing on this collaboration with Ms. Kean and Senator (Myron) Jackson,” Krigger said.

Krigger added that his division may be able to assist by supplying yellow Danish bricks left over from the renovations of Fort Christian several years ago..

Commissioners also viewed a detailed presentation while considering an application from the owners of Royal Dane Mall. Architectural Consultant Tom Avitable led them through the particulars and a 10-step repair and rehabilitation plan.

He told them that the location, also known as the historic town of Charlotte Amalie, needed repair from damages caused by the 2017 hurricane season and the July 4, 2019 fire that left significant damage. Perhaps the most controversial step called for demolition of walls from the Danish-era warehouses that made up part of the complex.

“It’s in sorry shape. There’s a lot of structural damage,” the consultant said. Avitable then described the portion of the plan calling for demolition of the fire-damaged walls to be replaced by a plaza area with potted plant decor.

Commissioners voiced concern that part of the original complex would be lost if that plan were pursued but were told that the architect could not guarantee the integrity of the damaged walls if they were to stay in place. “You could do things to stabilize those walls if there is a concern for lateral movements,” Krigger said.

The one section that was, however, turned down was the proposed installation of awnings over the facade windows facing Charlotte Amalie Harbor.

Commission Chairman Akil Petersen thanked Avitable for hosting a site visit prior to the meeting that gave those attending a chance to see the state of Royal Dane Mall and how badly repairs and renovations were needed.

Once work begins, it will take an estimated year to 18 months to complete the work, officials said.

Part of the stated mission of the Historic Preservation Commission is to instill in Virgin Islanders a sense of pride in the territory’s unique history and to encourage community revitalization.

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