Three of the buildings that used to house workers at the former Limetree Bay refinery may find a new home and a new purpose — housing employees at the Divi Bay Casino on St. Croix.
Susan Varnes, president of Treasure Bay, V.I., presented plans to the Economic Development Commission Thursday for the project. The project is called Divi Residences and would be developed by Grapetree Shores doing business as Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort. Treasure Bay, which owns the resort of which the casino is a tenant, wants to use funds from investment alternative tax credits being held in escrow.
Varnes said not only could the three buildings (she called them buildings; commissioners called them trailers) provide affordable housing for employees but it would also eliminate transportation problems many locals have. VITRAN does not operate on that end of St. Croix.
Anton Kuipers, general manager of the casino since 1999, said it has always been a struggle getting employees. Both the casino and the resort have listed numerous job openings on their websites. He added that the casino has a beautiful location at Estate Turner Hole but the location is a negative for employees commuting from population centers on the island.
The population was on Varnes’ mind too. She said the territory’s population had declined by almost 20 percent in recent years, contributing to the hiring problem.
Commissioners asked whether the housing would be for locals or would it be for people coming down from the states. Kuipers said he wants to hire locals. Varnes said it would probably be a 50-50 mix.
Each of the three buildings is expected to contain 30 units. Each unit would be for a single person, not a family, and the rent with all utilities included would be between $200 and $250 per month. Kuipers said it had not yet been worked out whether the units would be separated into male and female units, but a security presence would be maintained.
Varnes said, “All housing is single unit, fully furnished residences with on-site laundry facilities, communal areas and gathering space.”
The project is expected to cost between $2 million and $2.5 million. A quarter million of that is for the purchase of the units.
Commissioner Jose Penn said since the housing would be for only singles, “It doesn’t fix the big picture.”
Kuipers told the Source that the purpose of the presentation “was to request that the Government Development Bank approve the project as an eligible investment.” He added, “They did not take any action, but we hope to have an answer in the next couple of weeks. We would like to start moving buildings as soon as permits are approved, these will be applied for as soon as we get approval from DPNR.”
Varnes said, “Very little housing is available on St. Croix and that which is available is not affordable.” She added, “Many employees do not have reliable transportation.”