A proposed five-story, 126-room hotel to be built adjacent to the West Indian Company Dock in Havensight is making its way through the Coastal Zone Management process. Jeffrey Boschulte, an architect representing the Haven Development, told the CZM Committee last week that the developers hope to start construction this summer and finish in 18 months.
A year ago, Government Employees’ Retirement System gained a zoning change at the property to allow the development.
GERS officials have been adamant in explaining that GERS is not investing in a hotel. It sent out a press release last March saying, “GERS seeks rezoning of a parcel of land at Havensight Mall. GERS is leasing a parcel of land to a developer to build a hotel. GERS is not providing any funding for this project.”
Boschulte, at a CZM public hearing on Feb. 23 said that investors plan on investing $20 million to $25 million in the hotel.
Presently there are warehouses on the site. Boschulte said the warehouses had outlived their useful lives and would be demolished.
Marlon Hibbert, director of CZM, asked Boshulte what percentage of the ground would be impervious (cement parking lot versus greenspace). Boshulte could not answer precisely but noted the site presently is 100 percent impenetrable.
The proposal presented at the public hearing showed 131 parking spaces and three loading spaces. Boschulte said the hotel would increase traffic through the mall, “But I see that as a positive thing.”
Asiah Clendinen Gumbs, chief operating officer for GERS, said GERS sees benefits from the hotel beyond the rental payments. She said GERS expects to see irrigation and pristine landscaping where warehouses once were, making the entrance to the mall more attractive.
The lease agreement would initially be for 50 years. Then an option for another 25 years would be followed by two 12-year options.
According to documents presented to CZM, the hotel will be branded as a Hampton Inn & Suites. The hotel will have food and beverage services, flexible meeting spaces, a fitness center, a convenience shop, a business center, and an outdoor pool. A new Visitor Center will be constructed on the property.
According to GERS Administrator Austin L. Nibbs’ testimony at the zoning hearing, plans were to demolish warehouses in the Havensight Mall to construct buildings that would serve as stores and apartments. At the time, the space was intended to be renovated to serve as a welcome center, parking, green space, and storage facility. However, within the recent year, a proposal was brought to the GERS through V.I. Port Authority Director Carlton Dowe to construct a five-story hotel in the Havensight Mall.
Former Sen. Janelle Sarauw voted in opposition to the zoning change.
“All we do is open bars, restaurants, and our idea of economic development is hotels,” said Sarauw at the zoning hearing last March. “I am concerned with the landscape of this district.” Sarauw implied that spaces for outdoor and indoor activities should be constructed instead of a hotel.
CZM is expected to hold a decision meeting concerning the project before the end of March.