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Group Has Big Plans to Renovate Charlotte Amalie


Nov.1, 2005 — Plans to revamp portions of downtown are underway, thanks to the Charlotte Amalie Revitalization Effort (CARE), a not-for-profit group comprising several island activists and businesspeople.
Founded in 2004, CARE is also in league with the V.I. government, which recently tapped the group to renovate the former V.I. Police Department Forensics Lab building, adjacent to Vendors Plaza — an $85,000 project.
"It's an example of public and private partnership — we get together and do things for the community," said James Armour, owner of Royal Dane Mall and International Plaza, as well as CARE president. Armour added the effort is "much needed," since the downtown area has become "blighted," and is shrinking due to development and increased traffic.
James O'Bryan, St. Thomas administrator, said the government feels the same way, and has been involved with the group since its inception. O'Bryan said CARE was asked to renovate the former forensics building, which has been empty since 2000, as the government had plans to refurbish the structure next door.
"This is a joint effort," O'Bryan said. "We've been there from the start, and we will continue to be involved as these projects move forward."
The government's support does not include funding for CARE's revitalization plans, however. Armour said about $50,000 of the amount needed to renovate the forensics building is coming from private contributions.
"We do hope to raise more money within the community so the building can open before Christmas this year," Armour said.
Once CARE's renovations are complete, the building will house the V.I. Lottery and an arts and crafts store; public bathrooms behind the building will also be renovated.
The construction of a parking garage in Charlotte Amalie is next on the list for the group, an undertaking which Armour says is "most critical" for the island. Steve Morton, chief operations officer for Topa Properties Ltd. and a CARE member, added more parking will further reduce congestion to and from town, as well as contain "much needed public restroom facilities."
Armour said meetings to discuss the project have been ongoing over the past year between the group and O'Bryan. Various government agencies and members of the Senate have also been involved, Armour said.
The structure, slated to be three or four stories with 325 parking spaces, has already been approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, Armour said. He said he did not divulge the projected site because CARE is currently in negotiations over the land with an island family. Once negotiations are complete, CARE will proceed with plans for the structure immediately, he said.
In a press release sent Tuesday, the group announced other future projects, including landscaping areas from the airport into downtown and restoring other properties on Main Street to provide shaded parks, sitting areas, fountains, and outdoor restaurants. This will allow visitors to the territory to get away from the "hustle and bustle" of the downtown area, the release said.
In addition to Armour and Morton, other CARE members include environmentalist Helen Gjessing, Edward Thomas, president of the West Indian Co. Ltd.; William Otto of David Jones Real Estate; Winston Parker of the V.I. Taxi Association; Sebastiano Paiewonsky-Cassinelli of A.H. Riise; David Blyden, who has business interests in Rothschild Francis "Market" Square, and Bernard Attidore of the Yacht Haven Marina project.
Armour said CARE would open its membership to the public later on this year.

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