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Sprauve Requests Zoning Change to Build Affordable Housing on STJ

Gershwain Sprauve explains his plans to rezone his property in Estate Adrian on St. John to build affordable housing during an online DPNR meeting Monday. (Submitted photo)
Gershwain Sprauve explains his plans to rezone his property in Estate Adrian on St. John to build affordable housing during an online DPNR meeting Monday. (Screenshot from DPNR meeting)

For years, St. John residents have been struggling with a critical housing shortage, and now one local landowner is seeking to address the problem.

Gershwain Sprauve has applied to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to rezone nearly four acres in Estate Adrian from Residential-Low Density or R-1, to Business-Scattered or B-3, in order to construct 88 affordable housing units.

An image of the location of Gershwain Sprauve’s property in Estate Adrian. (Photo courtesty Map Geo)
An image of the location of Gershwain Sprauve’s property in Estate Adrian. (Photo courtesty Map Geo)

Sprauve presented his request to rezone parcels 17F-2 and 17F-Remainder Estate Adrian, Number 18 Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John at a DPNR meeting held online Monday.

Sprauve hopes to provide 88 rental units within 22 three-story structures scattered over 4.1 acres of the property.

“The demand for affordable housing is high and is growing significantly,” said Sprauve who has previously built moderate-income rental units on his property at 11-K Estate Adrian.

Images of the exteriors and the interiors as imagined by Gershwain Sprauve for his proposed 88-unit development on St. John. (Submitted photo)
Images of the exteriors and the interiors as imagined by Gershwain Sprauve for his proposed 88-unit development on St. John. (Screenshot from DPNR meeting)

He’s now working with architect Chaneel Callwood-Daniels to design units that meet the diverse housing needs of long-term residents with moderate incomes.

Sprauve said he hopes to attract young professionals, teachers, retirees, and hospitality workers, many of whom now have to commute from St. Thomas because they can’t find housing on St. John.

Preliminary plans call for studio and one-bedroom units on the ground floors; three-bedroom units on the second floors, and two-bedroom units on the third floors. Sprauve estimates that the units will range in size from 600 to 1,300 square-feet.

A rendering shows the interiors for proposed housing units at Estate Adrian. (Submitted photo)
A rendering shows the interiors for proposed housing units at Estate Adrian. (Screenshot from DPNR meeting)

Sprauve said the units would be designed to be ecologically friendly and sustainable, with solar power, cisterns for water catchment, and a wastewater treatment plant on site.

Upon questioning from Planning Division officials, Sprauve said that the project will be built in phases, but the timeline ultimately depends on the funding. He is researching various federal government programs for affordable housing.

Sprauve said he cannot estimate the rental rates at this time. “It’s a moving scale, and it has to be somewhat subsidized; people can’t afford market-rate housing.”

Depending on the funding source, the units may be convertible from a rental basis to home-ownership after a period of time, he said.

An aerial photo shows the estate road that leads to the proposed site of an affordable housing development in Estate Adrian on St. John. (Submitted photo)
An aerial photo shows the estate road that leads to the proposed site of an affordable housing development in Estate Adrian on St. John. (Screenshot from DPNR meeting)

The largely undeveloped property is located on an estate road off of Centerline Road opposite Coco Joe’s near Midway Market.  An aerial view photo shows that the curving estate road runs roughly parallel to the George A. Simmons Housing Community towards the east.

Sprauve said a large parcel of land was bequeathed by his grandfather in the 1970s to family members. Surveys completed then do not indicate the presence of significant historical artifacts or rare species of plants or animals, but additional studies would be needed.

The public has until April 25 to send comments regarding the proposed rezoning to DPNR officials.  Emails may be addressed to leia.laplace@dpnr.vi.gov.  Following that, DPNR planners have 30 days to present a report to the commissioner.  Once the commissioner has signed off, the rezoning request may be sent to the V.I. Legislature for approval. 

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