Home News Local news V.I. HOTEL TO BE RAZED TO MAKE WAY FOR HOUSING

V.I. HOTEL TO BE RAZED TO MAKE WAY FOR HOUSING

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Jan. 22, 2003 – Demolition work that will lead to the development of low-income housing for veterans and other persons on the site of the long-derelict Virgin Isle Hotel should start in about two months, according to the St. Thomas attorney for the not-for-profit organization behind the project.
On Wednesday, Delegate Donna Christian Christensen announced that the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York has awarded a $1.6 million grant for the redevelopment.
"I commend the hard work and dedication undertaken by both the public and private sector to make this project move closer to becoming reality," Christensen said in a release.
The organization attorney, Kathleen Mackay, said the entire project is expected to cost about $17 million. She said the rest of the funding will come from a low-income tax credit available through the V.I. Housing Finance Authority and a construction loan. She declined to name the investor making the construction loan because the deal is not finalized.
The not-for-profit entity is Veterans Resources and Development Inc., headed by Samuel Ebbesen, senior vice president of Innovative Communication Corp. and a retired Army general. Mackay said Veterans Resources formed a for-profit company, Veterans Community Housing Corp., which has partnered with the unnamed investor to form V.I. Community Housing Limited Partnership.
The project calls for the construction of 162 residential units, including apartments and three-bedroom bungalows, that will be rented to low-income people, with veterans having first priority. The complex also will have offices for social services to address the needs of residents.
The first step is demolition of the onetime V.I. Hilton Hotel, which closed in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo caused extensive damage. Nine years later, after failing in their efforts to sell the property, which had become a haven for vagrants and a meeting place for drug transactions, the consortium of owners offered it to the V.I. government in return for the waiving of outstanding property taxes reportedly totaling several million dollars.
Six months later, as the government was still pondering whether to agree to the deal, there was talk of turning the hotel into a centralized government offices complex.
In December 2001, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull signed a bill into law granting a 99-year lease of the old hotel to Veterans Resources for development into a multipurpose veterans center.
The demolition and reconstruction work is expected to take a year to a year and a half.
The V.I. Hotel, which overlooked the western end of Charlotte Amalie and St. Thomas harbor, was built in 1950 by the Kessler, Bayne, Kimelman and Fishman families as the first luxurious resort-type hotel on St. Thomas. "It lifted the island right into the lap of tourism," Irene Bayne said in a 1985 interview.

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