Op Ed: The Coral Bay “Building for Nothing”

Coral bay structure. (Submitted by David Silverman)

You all remember the “Bridge to Nowhere” on St Thomas? After many long years it finally became a bridge to somewhere and is fulfilling a useful, albeit very delayed, purpose.

Well we now have a “Building for Nothing” in Coral Bay, St John. Shortly after Hurricane Irma devastated Coral Bay with almost total destruction of the historic Guy Benjamin School, construction began on a modular “Sprung Structure” on the grounds of the Coral Bay school. Many residents were puzzled and had questions about its placement, its function and its intended uses. As it turns out, most of those questions remain to be answered.

For over three years the structure has remained unoccupied. The power, water and septic utilities are in place but not hooked up. While Coral Bay lacks a community center, lacks a school, lacks a facility for after-school programs, lacks a senior center – all of which would be excellent uses for this structure – it remains empty.

The “Building for Nothing” continues to be a puzzle. When Governor Bryan was asked if the building could be opened and managed by the Coral Bay Community Council he promised he would take steps to make that happen. That promise was over two years ago and absolutely nothing has changed. The structure is under the management of the Department of Education but nobody in that agency apparently has opening the “Building for Nothing” on their agenda.

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The Coral Bay Community Council along with many individual residents have reached out to Senator-at-Large Steven Payne, St John Administrator Shikima Jones-Sprauve, Governor Albert Bryan Jr, and staff within the Department of Education, but nobody seems to take ownership of this green and white elephant in Coral Bay.

As we all know, here in the tropics things degrade rapidly when they are not put to regular use. It would be a crying shame for this expensive, useful structure to continue to be the Coral Bay “Building for Nothing” for years to come, and then when the time finally comes to open it, to discover the need for costly repairs and refurbishment due to years of non-use.

We can do better. We must do better.

Editor’s note: David Silverman is the president of Save Coral Bay Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)3.