September 13, 2005 – Spirits ran high on Tuesday as the St. Croix community came together to give their input on the second phase of the Frederiksted Revitalization project. The community charrette or brainstorming session used by architects and planners — will gather public opinion on the design and construction of a new baseball stadium, improvements to Fort Frederik beach, softball field and tot lot, construction of new basketball and tennis courts and infrastructure investments to the area of the Crucian festival village. The charrette, held at the Rotary West building behind the ball field in Frederiksted, will be conducted over a three-day period and is open to the public. The discussion began at 4 p.m. Tuesday; a final presentation will be made Friday.
"This is part of the Turnbull/Richards commitment of development for St. Croix," Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards said as he addressed the more than 100 residents who came out to participate in the project. Richards said the project would make St. Croix into a sports and entertainment center unrivaled anywhere in the Caribbean. "It can happen," Richards said. "You better believe it."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, in his remarks, said St. Croix has the "richest culture and history" in the Caribbean. In 2002, when the cruise ships chose to bypass St. Croix, he made the commitment to make St. Croix into an "internationally recognized" destination.
"With the increasing competition for tourism dollars, sports tourism is the way to go," Turnbull said.
Turnbull listed the projects completed or on line for St. Croix, including improvements or reconstruction of the Althalie McFarlane Petersen Library, the Ingeborg Nesbitt Community Health Center, the Great House at Bonne Esperance, the Danish School house, the Dorsch Cultural Activity Center and the Frederiksted Fisherman's pier. Turnbull also announced that reconstruction is scheduled for the Departments of Labor and Education buildings on Hospital Street in Christiansted.
Arnold Brathwaite, regional baseball scout for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, said he had great hopes for the future of St. Croix with the addition of a professional baseball stadium. Brathwaite said college and professional teams could utilize the stadium during spring training. The area also has the potential to house a baseball academy, he said. Brathwaite, a native of St. Croix, has been conducting baseball clinics in the Virgin Islands for several years.
Richards added that the new stadium would be a venue for the Washington Nationals minor league baseball teams.
Several speakers remarked that homeowners have moved out of Frederiksted, and in order to revitalize the town, people have to move back in. Clifford Graham, Housing Finance Authority executive director, announced two projects in the works to do just that. Graham said ground would be broken in October for eight new two-and three-bedroom town homes on Queen Street and moderate-income single-family homes on Prince and Hospital Streets. Graham said the construction would move the "not so positive nightlife" out of the town.
Fort Frederik will be getting a face-lift too, according to Claudette C. Lewis, Department of Planning and Natural Resources assistant commissioner. Lewis said the fort, which was declared a historic landmark in 1977, has not been renovated since 1974. "Nature has taken its toll," Lewis said. "The second floor has been closed for 15 years."
William and Punch managing partners Christopher "Chris" Elliott and attorney Kevin A. Rames made a pitch for their project. Elliot said the partners took a "leap of faith" and invested in St. Croix. They plan to develop a major resort and residential complex including a 400-room hotel, marina, casino, 160 residential lots, condominiums, two golf courses, retail shops, a convention center, botanical gardens and 300 acres of green space on St. Croix's West End. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation — which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, one of the largest casinos in the world recently announced they are establishing a joint venture with the local developers. Elliot said the tribal nation has respect for nature, respect for our culture and history, has a very successful resort and is a group of excellent corporate citizens.
Rames made an impassioned plea to the public to testify in favor of the project at the upcoming CZM hearings. "It is a substantial challenge," Rames said of the CZM procedure. He asked the residents to help him "break the cycle of failed private ventures."
Turnbull threw his support behind the William and Punch project, saying he would "institute new procedures to remove impediments to economic growth."
According to information distributed by the V.I. Public Finance Authority, a charrette is a common method of planning used by architects and town planners. The word is derived from the French term for "little cart" and refers to the final intense work effort expended by architects to meet a project deadline.
Sessions will continue Wednesday starting at 9 a.m. through 10 p.m. Breakfast is served from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Lunch and dinner will also be served. The schedule is the same for Thursday, and the session closes Friday at 12:30 p.m.
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