CZM OKs changes to Margaritaville permits


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ST. THOMAS - The Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham moved one step closer to completion Tuesday after the St. Thomas Coastal Zone Management Commission approved a modification to some existing permits.

The Smith Bay timeshare resort will take over the former Renaissance Grand Beach Resort property, which has been vacant for years and had fallen into serious disrepair.

Two major CZM permits for the property were transferred to Wyndham in 2009 when the company bought the property. Wyndham requested a modification to the permits that same year to renovate and refurbish a number of the buildings and facilities. That request was approved in 2010, but for various reasons, the company did not pursue construction on the resort and no work was done.

Last year, Wyndham announced the partnership with Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville brand to make the resort a Margaritaville-themed timeshare resort.

In January, a second modification request was made reflecting the new Margaritaville identity.

So much time had gone by that many of the existing buildings at the resort had to be completely gutted, and some had to be demolished and reconstructed. Any new construction in the permit modification will be done within the footprints of existing buildings, according to Wyndham Vice President of Project Management Rob Landry.

A major change in the plans will be to remove the tennis courts and create 115 additional parking spaces. A second parking lot will add 41 new spaces as well.

With no tennis courts on the refurbished property, the tennis pro shop will be demolished, and a satellite operations building will be built in its place.

The existing buildings at the rear of the property, closer to Smith Bay Road, will be demolished and replaced by four new buildings to house a retail marketplace, fitness center, sales center, activities building and a back-of-the-house building to contain housekeeping, engineering, maintenance and service functions.

By consolidating hotel rooms, the 290-room hotel will now have 262 units - 192 hillside units and 70 poolside units.

Wyndham hired St. Croix contractor J. Benton Construction in conjunction with the stateside contractor Moss & Associates to do the demolition and reconstruction on the resort. More than 100 people already have been employed, and about 350 will be employed during the remainder of the construction phase, according to James Benton.

The project, which will cost more than $100 million, will have two phases completed during a three-year period.

The first phase will focus on the 70 beachfront units, along with the pool, pool bar, restaurant, marketplace, front desk, dive shop, retail shop, fitness center, game room and on-site sales office.

The second phase will convert the hillside hotel rooms into the remaining condo units.

The resort is on track to open in the first quarter of 2015, Landry said.

The St. Thomas CZM Committee approved the modifications with the condition that oil and water separators be installed in the new parking areas. Plans showing the locations of the separators must be submitted to CZM within 45 days.

In other business Tuesday, the committee:

- Approved a modification to SURTEP Enterprises' permit. The company, owned by Allison Petrus, operates a gas station on Veterans Drive, just west of Percy's Bus Stop. The modification will allow Petrus to incorporate an adjacent lot he currently is leasing into the master plan and use it to expand parking and allow better entrance and exit to the property.

- Held a permit modification request for Botany Bay Partners until the committee can visit the property.

- Conducted a public hearing for a permit for an existing dock in Frydenhoj, owned by Neal Henderson. The adjacent dock, which is only 30 feet away, is owned by Go Fast Charters, which asked the committee to keep several special conditions in place if the permit is issued.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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