Nov. 17, 2005 — A small but spirited group gathered under a bright, blue sky Thursday afternoon to dedicate a bright, blue building on the waterfront.
The group is the Charlotte Amalie Revitalization Effort (CARE), a not-for-profit group, and the building — until about five days ago a dilapidated eyesore — is the former V.I. Police Department Forensics Lab. The occasion was the official launching of the renovation project.
Adjacent to Vendors Plaza, and next door to the old District Court building, the small structure is getting a facelift from the organization. Though the aesthetics of the building add to the ambience of the area, the purpose of the structure is practical.
The effort is a public-private partnership, though it is privately funded. James Armour, owner of Royal Dane Mall and International Plaza, as well as CARE president, said, "It's an example of public and private partnership — we get together and do things for the community."
James O'Bryan, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's spokesman, said the governor has been behind the project since its inception. With a wide grin, he pointed to the blue building, "and it is truly happening," he said.
O'Bryan said it is part of an overall downtown Charlotte Amalie renovation effort which will see improvements to Emancipation Garden. Work on downtown sidewalks is currently under way, he said.
The District Court building will soon be seeing renovation, by the Public Finance Authority. O 'Bryan said the Property and Procurement Department is in the process of sending out bids for contractors. The building was shut down last year because of structural failings.
The building will house V. I. Lottery machines, the former Arts and Crafts market which occupied space in the old District Court building, and, sorely needed public bathrooms.
V. I. Lottery Director Paul Fleming said the building is a "satellite office" of the lottery. The machines will take up "about 25 percent" of the area. He said the machines will "showcase" the lottery's variety, some from Caribbean Lottery, scratch tickets from the V. I. Lottery, and a few Video Lottery terminals.
One person who was extremely thankful to the group was community legend Dorothy "Dotsy" Elskoe, president of the Committee to Revive Our Culture. Her remarks were brief and to the point.
Standing tall in an elegant bright red outfit, Elskoe said, "If not for this group of people, we would still be looking for a place to put our arts and crafts," she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Later, Elskoe said the market, which has been in the District Court building since 1997, "had no place to go." Elskoe says she still works three days a week at the market.
Armour said he hopes the building will be open in December, in time for Christmas. Adding to his remarks, he said, "Help has been coming from unexpected places." Gesturing at the crew busily working inside and outside of the structure, he said, "contractors have been coming up and volunteering their services to help us, not the big companies, the small guys are donating their time and effort."
He said the Historic Preservation Commission has approved the blue color. He thinks the trim will probably be white. The building will be surrounded by attractive plantings.
The group is going to next address arguably the most pressing traffic problem on the island B downtown parking. Armour said plans for a downtown-parking garage are progressing, but he said he could not yet reveal the location, as negotiations with the family, which owns the building, are ongoing.
Future CARE projects include landscaping areas from the airport into downtown and restoring other properties on Main Street to provide shaded parks, sitting areas, fountains, and outdoor restaurants.
CARE members include Wanda Mills, who introduced the speakers Thursday; 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. Not all members were present Thursday.
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