July 16, 2003 - The Frederiksted Economic Revitalization
Project was the main item of discussion at the Port Authority
board meeting on Wednesday as Public Finance Authority
executive Kenneth Mapp sought $2 million in backing and
approval to go forward with the project.
Lacking a quorum, the board could not make decisions but
held an informal discussion.
Harvey Sasso, president of Coastal Systems Development,
Inc. said his company's focus is not "designing a
pier, but designing an experience."
The plan is to turn the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility
-- the formal name for the Frederiksted pier -- from a
barren concrete structure isolated from Frederiksted town
into a lush park with open areas, fountains and cobbled
brick pedestrian paths integrated into the town waterfront
Referring to cruise ship visitors, Sasso said: "By
the time they get to Strand Street, they have a feeling
that this town is great."
The project plans call for many improvements to existing
structures. The clock tower base would be removed and
replaced by a structure with seat steps. The Vendors Plaza
would be relocated away from a tightly congested area,
and vendors would be assigned separate permanent structures
without walls to conduct their business.
Among the other additions envisioned are a Customs building,
security buildings at each end of the pier, a pedestrian
lawn, a fountain plaza with benches, parking with glass
block pavers, entrance columns, evening security and a
pedestrian promenade with benches.
Improvements also would be made in Frederiksted itself.
Mapp proposed a historical tour called "The Path
of Charm" that would taken in "the most historic
Mapp, who is the PFA's administrative and financial director,
also detailed plans to improve structures in Christiansted.
He said the Historic Preservation Commission has approved
plans to renovate the King's Alley Hotel, which the PFA
currently owns, a project estimated at $2 million.
Mapp said it was unfortunate that the Legislature did
not commit the $80 million sought by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull
build a 250-room hotel on St. Croix in the bond authorization
bill it passed Tuesday night. (See "Approval of bond
bill ends long day's debate".)
"If we know we don't want tourists on St. Croix,
we should put our marbles in another basket," Mapp
He projected that the revitalization project would generate
business opportunities, bring tourists back to St. Croix
and build the island as a quality visitor destination.
VIPA board members said it is important for the cruise
lines to have some say in the project. Darlan Brin, VIPA
executive director, said he will try to get representatives
of the cruise lines to see the presentation.
Board member Leslie Milliner said of the Frederiksted
project: "I think this is the step in the right direction.
"It has all the trimmings of bringing St. Croix back
Millions of dollars were spent in recent years rebuilding
and expanding the pier. In May and June of 2002, three
cruise lines announced they were taking St. Croix off
their itineraries because of crime concerns and/or lack
of customer demand. In the last year, only one ship, Celebrity
Cruises' Constellation, called regularly, making a total
of 17 visits.
Mapp asked the Port Authority for $2 million to develop
the Abramson Marine Facility and to approve the development
of the Strand Street end of the pier, which is under VIPA's
jurisdiction. Action on the requests will be taken at
a later meeting.
The PFA would pay $1 million to develop two buildings
for Port Authority services and provisions, Mapp said,
estimating the overall project's cost at $6 million.
"It will be a challenge to find the money to do it,"
board member Robert O'Connor Jr. said.
Due to financial constraints, the board discussed the
possibility of doing the project in phases. The idea met
with opposition from Attorney General Iver Stridiron,
the board's vice chair, who presided at the meeting in
the absence of the chair, Tourism Commissioner Pamela
"I am in favor of not doing it in phases," Stridiron
said, expressing concern that the project would come to
an untimely halt and leave things looking worse than before.
Brin said the work could be done in phases in such a way
that the project would look attractive at the end of each
stage. "The landscape architect would have to come
up a plan that looks finished," he said.
Mapp said that if the Port Authority board approves the
plan, it should take five to six weeks to begin the bidding
Other items on the meeting agenda that were not taken
up for lack of a quorum included a matters relating to
V.I. Fast Ferry, which has provided winter season service
between St. Thomas and St. Croix for the last two years;
the Crown Bay commercial center under development on St.
Thomas; repairs to the federal inspection building in
Cruz Bay, St. John; and ratification of an earlier vote
by polling of board members on the "waiver of docking
fees for cruise ship filming."
by Tamika Thomas, St. John Source