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RITZ-CARLTON CLUB ALMOST OPEN FOR BUSINESS

April 19, 2002 – With the dust of controversy and construction settled – for the moment – and the finishing touches still damp, The Ritz-Carlton Club held a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, with four dozen people, including government officials, Ritz executives, attorneys and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on hand to do the honors.
The ceremony celebrated the completion of Building A, a six-story, 23-unit building and the first in the $75 million project that will eventually include two more condominium buildings, two hotel buildings and a health club and spa.
"This is a good day for the Virgin Islands," Turnbull said. "Not too long ago there was a lot of controversy," he added, surrounding the project, which he said "reflects the confidence of the Ritz-Carlton in the future of the Virgin Islands."
Turnbull was an active proponent of the membership condominium development that will eventually house 80 residential timeshare-type units and 48 hotel rooms and suites.
Jamie Holmes, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which adjoins the club, thanked Turnbull for "smoothing out the bumps on the road" to make it happen.
And the road was indeed bumpy and might have caused the project to die, when at least one senator and others objected to Turnbull cutting a deal to turn part of what some claimed was a public road, over to the Ritz-Carlton Club. (See "Ritz-Carlton Project Has a Few Glitches".)
At one point, the League of Women Voters brought a lawsuit to stop work at the site until it could review the resort's Coastal Zone Management permit, which the League said was made in secrecy without the required input either from the public or from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (See "LWV Files Suit Against CZM, Ritz, Governor".)
But Friday's celebration, complete with champagne, sushi and shrimp on a stick, offered physical evidence that the controversy had quieted and many of the public's concerns had been addressed, including a prominent sign that hangs on a chain-link fence along the controversial roadway pointing to "Public Access to the Beach."
Mikhail Shamkin, Ritz-Carlton Club managing director, said the access had always been there and now includes parking for 10 cars a few feet from the beach, with two handicapped spots.
And that's not all. Shamkin said an agreement between the Ritz and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources keeps personal watercraft such as Jet Skis out of Great Bay for the protection of sea turtles, swimmers and the tiny sea horses that have been released by Coral World into the grasses that grow in the waters.
Shamkin said the project will eventually employ about 100 people, in everything from housekeeping to concierge services. "There is a heavy emphasis on service," he said.
The fact sheet passed out at the event says, "Members enjoy the convenience of a dedicated concierge staff providing such services as airport pick-up, pre-arrival provisioning of the residence, unpacking and pressing pre-sent garments, arranging a complete itinerary and having personal items placed in their residences according to each member's specifications."
All this for upward of $98,000 for a 21-day "fractional ownership," as the Ritz refers to the plan, which also includes the right to another week – at additional cost – at the Virgin Islands Club or any other Ritz-Carlton club. Members can book more days or weeks, subject to availability.
At present the only other club is in Aspen, Colo., but there are plans to open more clubs in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., and Jupiter, Fla. within the next year.
Two hotel buildings are already under construction, slated to be completed by the end of this year. The second condominium building is also under construction. Groundbreaking for two more condo buildings is scheduled for early 2003.
Guests at Friday's event were treated to a tour of one of the luxury three-bedroom, three-bath condos, which sells for about $158,000, according to Calvin Christopher, membership executive. "Whatever you need, I can get it for you," said Christopher.
Most of the condos in building A have been sold, said Ritz public relations manager Bethany Vairo. Occupancy will begin on June 1.

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