VIPA Chooses deJongh Firm for Creek Beautification Project

Nearly five months after the V.I. Port Authority announced the beautification of the Cruz Bay Creek was being put on hold due to a lack of funding, VIPA has chosen deJongh and Associates to help with planning the project.

The local architecture firm was selected for the project by VIPA’s governing board at a Wednesday, August 22, meeting.

DeJongh and Associates and national firm Burns and McDonnell responded to VIPA’s request for qualifications in June 2006 for the beautification of the waterfront property, which stretches from the Creek to the Customs parking lot.

Despite the selection of an architecture firm for the project, it remains unclear what VIPA hopes to accomplish at the Creek, which has been a mess of cars, taxis, cruise ship tenders and private boats since cargo traffic moved to the Enighed Pond Marine Facility in April 2006.

“We’re going to work with deJongh and Associates to create a conceptual master plan for the area,” said VIPA spokesperson Marc Stridiron. “We will determine within that plan what structures or elements need to be designed and constructed.”

The cost of the project and where the funds will come from will be determined once the scope of the work is defined and a contract between VIPA and deJongh and Associates is finalized.

Cost Determined Once Scope Defined
“We will now go into the process of really defining the scope of work, and determining what can and should be done in the Cruz Bay area,” Stridiron said. “From there, we’ll get a better determination of what the full scope of work will be, and what the cost associated with it will be. In terms of both design, and also the construction and buildout, we don’t really have dollar figures in place yet.”

“I assume there will be a negotiation process in terms of the contract with deJongh and Associates for their master planning services, so once that contract is complete and ratified by the board, we’ll have a better idea of what sort of dollar figures we’re looking at there,” Stridiron continued. “Once we have a better idea of what we’re looking at with the plan, then we’ll be able to look at the funding situation and see how that will be addressed.”

While there are broad areas VIPA would like to address at the Creek, it remains unclear what exactly the property will be used for in the future.

“What’s on the drawing board in terms of the master planning are things like the beautification of the area, landscaping and things like that,” said Stridiron. “Those are the larger questions that will be addressed.”

Input from St. John residents will be an important aspect of the Creek beautification, the VIPA spokesperson explained.

“One thing I want to stress is that public input will be critical at all phases,” said Stridiron. “This is not just going to be the Port Authority and architects determining what to do in the area. The process of planning the area is going to involve a heavy amount of public input.”

Creek Open for Parking?
Public opinion will likely be gathered at open meetings and through written comments, Stridiron added. VIPA’s board meetings are open to the public as well.

“If members of the public have specific ideas on what they’d like to see in the area, they can certainly contact VIPA either by calling or writing, and the meetings of the VIPA board are open to the public,” said Stridiron. “Anyone can attend those meetings, and weigh in on those issues.”

In the meantime, the Creek is only meant to be used by ferries traveling to the British Virgin Islands and cruise ship tenders, and taxis picking up cruise ship passengers for day tours, according to Stridiron.

“On the water side, there are three activities taking place there right now,” he said. “There is one area where small day tour vessels tie up on the dock, and the area close to the customs building is where ferries returning from the BVI do their foreign arrivals. There’s another section where Inter-Island Boat Services does their runs, and the vessels that operate in and out of there are being charged for using the facility.”

“As for parking, the Creek is closed to parking, with the lone exception of tour buses, which can do quick pick-ups and drop-offs related to day tour vessels,” Stridiron continued. “The parking area is fenced off and the gate is closed most of the time.”

This assertion does not accurately describe what is happening at the Creek, where the gate is in fact open most of the time, and where several cars park and private vessels, from fishing boats to go-fast boats, frequently tie up. Stridiron vowed to look into what the Creek is actually being used for, but was unable to travel to St. John to examine the site before press time.

To contact VIPA regarding the beautification of the Creek, call 774-1629 or write to Virgin Islands Port Authority, PO Box 301707, St. Thomas, VI 00803.