More Bournefield Demolitions to Begin May 15

Bournefield Unite 209 is set for demolition in May. (Port Authority photo)
Bournefield Unite 209 is set for demolition in May. (Port Authority photo)

The V.I. Port Authority will begin demolishing three more units in the Bournefield Housing Community on St. Thomas, starting May 15, the authority said in a release Wednesday. The move brings the Port Authority closer to its goal of completely emptying the neighborhood, which it has been moving toward since 2010.

The Port Authority has reportedly contracted SSVI Expert Builders LLC to demolish derelict buildings in the Bournefield Housing Community. Units 204, 209 and 244 will be torn down and a slab of a former unit will be removed. Demolitions should take about approximately 45 days to complete.

According to the Port Authority, the contractor will work in the Bournefield area from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The areas being demolished will be secured, however VIPA advises the community to exercise caution while traversing the area while work is being conducted.

Built in the 1940s, the neighborhood is on a flood plain and has been subject to repeated floods and sewage leaks since at least the 1980s. There have been repeated, ongoing complaints about the condition of the dwellings, up through at least 2016. Concerned about the cost of upkeep and liability for potential injuries, in 2010, the Port Authority, which owns the land through to a grant from the federal government, announced it was going to evict all the residents, giving them four months to find new housing and offering a stipend for six months rent to help tenants find new housing.

But rents in Bournefield were low, with a three-bedroom apartment going for $525 a month, and long-time residents strongly objected. Gov. Albert Bryan, who was then the Labor commissioner, said at the time that the stipend may not be enough to pay for rent elsewhere on St. Thomas.

The Legislature considered legislation to force the Port Authority to give away the apartments to tenants, but abandoned the idea after receiving Federal Aviation Administration confirmation the land would revert to federal ownership if it is not used for the airport.

The Port Authority then switched to a slower plan of allowing the neighborhood to empty by attrition, with a goal of emptying the neighborhood by 2016.

In 2013, Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe said they were looking at building housing in Lindbergh Bay. There have been no recent reports about those plans. In 2016, five units were demolished making way for a new Port Authority maintenance building.