V.I. government strives for development of Water Island plots
Published: September 30, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - V.I. government officials are pushing for the development of two prime locations on Water Island, the most untouched island of the territory's four residential islands.
Earlier this month, Gov. John deJongh Jr. and various other government officials met with the Water Island Civic Association to discuss their effort to pull in interest for the locations.
The first site consists of about 11 acres and is between Honeymoon Beach and the main road overlooking Druif Bay.
The second site consists of a little less than 30 acres and was the location of the original Water Island Hotel and Beach Club, which opened with 50 rooms on Jan. 1, 1954.
The hotel and club, which changed names and owners throughout the years, closed in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo severely damaged the then-110 room facility.
"It's a lot quieter here, and there's no traffic," said Jim Wilkinson, president of the Water Island Civic Association. "If you run out of milk or whatever, it's not just a run to the corner. It's a lot of planning."
Government officials explained that they want to keep the island at a distance from commercial influence, and they will do so by reviewing any developers who express interest to see if they are a good match.
Government officials already are in the process, and they are asking for letters of interest and proposals to be submitted by Nov. 15. All materials are asked to be sent to REVPAR International, a Virginia-based tourism and hospitality consulting firm.
Any materials thereafter are to be returned to the sender.
"Over here is getting really popular," deJongh told the Water Island Civic Association, though he assured them that the territory wanted to ensure that development would not make the quiet getaway too popular.
Overall, the possibility of development was received well by the residents, who told deJongh that they would enjoy further development on-island, so long as the development was limited.
Residents at the meeting said that they would be glad to have further utilities on-island because they have no drinkable water and no public sewage system. A reverse osmosis desalination water plant may be in store for the island, as may be a wastewater treatment plant. The island would also need water and sewer lines connecting to St. Thomas.
No developers have yet expressed interest in the properties, according to the presentation residents received from government officials. Once REVPAR receives all the letters and proposals, the firm will narrow the potential field down to three developers, according to the presentation.
Government officials described the ideal developer as someone who envisioned a "boutique" hotel, though they did not elaborate on how many rooms the guests would accommodate. Either way, they said, the residents would have just as much access to the beach as the guests. Residents, in response, said that, other than their concern about the possibility of overdevelopment, they look forward to having more conveniences on-island.
"You wouldn't put a Frenchman's Reef on Water Island," said Joanne Bohr, government liaison for the Water Island Civic Association, who said that government officials eased some of her concerns about over development.
"It would defeat the purpose of building in a place like this," she said.
Water Island has always been the least flashy of the territory's four residential islands, as most of the less-than-200 people live in three concentrated areas and their main mode of transportation is golf carts.
The island does have an assortment of rental homes, cottages and a campground. To get there, visitors often take a 10-minute ferry ride from Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas to Phillips Landing on Water Island.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.