Grande Bay Gears Up for Short-term Rentals, Says Managing Owner Kane

The Grande Bay luxury condominium project will become the newest St. John vacation destination resort under the direction of managing partner/owner Elita Kane — even before the final building is completed.

The owners of the controversial six-building development on the hillside on the shore of Cruz Bay beach will bring many of the 48 units in the four completed residential buildings into an on-site short-term rental program operated out of the fifth building while they await a zone change for the sixth and final building in the project.

The developers have secured a Certificate of Occupancy for the most recently completed fifth building in the project, adjacent to the Gallows Point Cemetery overlooking Cruz Bay which features a dramatic wood and stone exterior entryway dominated by a lavish two-story, faux-stone waterfall tumbling from the roof-top pool deck.

Manufacturer tags hang from over-stuffed dark leather chairs in the “lobby” of the recently-completed reception building overlooking the Gallows Point Cemetery off the heavily-tiled and wood-paneled entrance hall with reception desk and office area. An elevator and open stairway connects the entry area with the roof-top pool deck.

A two-story waterfall cascades from the pool deck outside the picture window of a media room — complete with luxurious leather arm chairs and a giant flat-screen television — on the second floor of the reception building.

A few pieces of exercise equipment are partially assembled in the two wood-trimmed, carpeted rooms which will be Grande Bay’s fitness center spanning the front of the second level of the reception building overlooking Cruz Bay beach.

Only Completed Project
While work on the island’s two other major projects, Sirenusa and Pond Bay, remains in limbo due to economic factors, the island’s first controversial project is being finished under the direction of Bay Isle Associates LLC managing owner Kane. A manager has been hired for the rental program which is expected to start in the coming months, according to Kane.

Kane, a Latvian native who has lived in Sarasota, Florida, for 17 years, became involved in the project after the early 2009 death of her husband who was an original investor in the condominium development.

“We have some 20-something investors,” Kane explained.

Like many of the original investors, Kane and her late husband were not developers, only investors intending to recoup their investment at a profit.

While Kane admits to having no development experience other than her homes in Florida, New Jersey and on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, she has been visiting the St. John project every month since she began to take a hard look at the investment after her husband’s death.

In early 2009 Kane’s son Janis Krums, a Georgetown University Business School graduate, came to St. John to inspect the investment in the troubled project — armed with a video camera.

“The story we had in Florida was not what we found here,”  Kane said during a tour of the hospitality center in January with her son Janis, accompanied by General Contractor Todd Wilson of Blue Fin Homebuilders LLC of St. Thomas. “There came a time I had to step in.”

“We are here to make sure we finish this property,” Kane added mattter-of-factly of her representation of the majority of the owners. “We just wanted to show the community that we want to be good neighbors and part of the community. We have tried to do it right.”

Kane gives much credit for the progress on completing the project to her “outstanding” contractor Wilson.

“We can blame them and we can give them credit,” Kane said with a laugh. “They stepped in like I stepped in.”

Exterior Work Completed
All exterior work has been completed according to approved plans on the project’s sixth building according to contractor Wilson.

Interior work on the final building in the project, which towers above the pool deck adjacent to the Lavender Hill condominiums, has been halted while the developers await a decision on their request for a zone change for the parcel involved, he said.

The developers are requesting a zoning change from W-1 waterfront pleasure to R-4 residential in order to finish the sixth building as six condominiums. Under its current permit, Bay Isle is allowed to construct a 12-bedroom, two-family dwelling on the parcel.

The developers are requesting a zone change to build six units with a total of nine bedrooms.

Among other community efforts, Bay Isle Associates is cooperating with the V.I. Water and Power Authority on putting utilities underground along Cruz Bay beach from Wharfside Village to Gallows Point, according to Wilson.

Senate Approval Necessary
Now Kane and contractor Wilson are hoping planning officials will act favorably on their rezoning request so the project can be finished. The zone change also requires approval by the V.I. Legislature and Governor John P. deJongh Jr.

“DPNR came out and measured all the setbacks,” said Wilson, a contractor for 18 years on St. Thomas. “I wanted to know if there were any other issues,”

The developers moved a completed jacuzzi from a site on the interior side of the pool deck to a location near the outside boundary of the project to resolve questions about setbacks.

“Same with the mezzanine on Building E (the recently completed fifth building),” he said of another controversial aspect of the project. “We just decided we would remove it.”

The hillside site was the location of the former home of the long-time island physician the Dr George Knight. Dr. and Mrs. Knight, who are both deceased, sold a ridge-top parcel above their hillside lot to the late Ivan and Doris Jadan. Heirs of the Jadans have fought the development for years, charging it blocks the views from the family’s property.