Dec. 16, 2002 – St. John Administrator Julien Harley says a planned $2.5 million vendors plaza/parking garage in Cruz Bay is a done deal, but numerous people at a meeting on the subject Monday evening at the Legislature Building raised objections to both the design and the idea.
The facility is to be erected across from the Creek where an unpaved parking lot now exists. The V.I. government owns the land. Apex Construction, the successful bidder for the project, expects to start construction in March.
The conceptual drawing by St. Croix architect John Boucher of Cape Associates shows a two-story structure with 15 spaces, each 10 feet by 20 feet, on the first floor facing the waterfront, that would be leased to vendors. The rest of the building is to be devoted to parking, with 39 regular spaces and two handicapped spaces on the open-air upper level and 38 regular spaces and two handicapped spaces on the ground level.
Vehicles would access the upper level via a ramp on the east side and the lower level through an entry midway across the front of the building.
"You're going to create another congestion," predicted Lorelei Monsanto, who noted that the area already is difficult to navigate because of so much traffic on the narrow downtown streets.
When Harley told her that the Enighed Pond commercial port project should help alleviate the traffic congestion, Monsanto said she isn't making any plans based on the Enighed project, because it's been in the planning stages "forever."
The Enighed port, for which a contract was awarded in October, eventually is to become the docking area for barges and other large commercial vessels that now tie up at the Creek waterfront.
St. John architect and builder Glen Speer said he would prefer a "fluid" market where vendors could set up shop when they wished rather than commit to permanent enclosed spaces. Another St. John architect, Michael Milne, said the building depicted in architectural drawings looks like a "subsidized" shopping center.
Nearly a hundred people attended the meeting. Several wanted to know if the tenants will sell local arts and crafts. This was the idea behind the vendors plaza when it first came about in the 1980s.
Harley said the businesses currently leasing space in the parking lot — a produce stand, a smoothie stand, a car rental company and a restaurant — are guaranteed an opportunity to rent space in the new building. There probably aren't enough local artisans to occupy the rest of the spaces, he said.
Speer predicted that the vendors who lease space will be bringing in merchandise from all over the world to sell, just as they do at the St. Thomas vendors plaza.
Speer, who built Mongoose Junction Shopping Center and the Marketplace, said he still has space available at the Marketplace. "In the future, I may be competing with the government" in trying to lease it, he said.
Speer, Milne and others also spoke of the impact that the low rents charged by the government would have on businesses now housed in conventional shopping centers. These remarks prompted a reaction from several other people present.
"People here make millions," an angry Annette Barton said. She complained that she has a product to sell, but shops want a large percentage of the selling price as commission. She said the vendors plaza represents an opportunity for local people to compete.
Jerry Frett said local people are constantly pushed away by the high rents for commercial space. "You can eat. We want to eat, too. We pay taxes like you pay taxes," he said.
Objections also were raised to an enclosed area on the west end of the second story as proposed by the architect. Several people complained that it would block the view from businesses located in the Lumberyard shopping complex, directly uphill from the proposed new facility. Harley said the enclosed second-story area was not a given.
Several people suggested it would be a better idea to build a parking garage at an inland location rather that on prime property across from the waterfront.
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