June 15, 2004 – The old tiled swimming pool is now a mere puddle; the coral-colored walls are crumbling down. And soon the derelict old Yacht Haven Hotel — although not the name — will be simply a memory as it is leveled for a new beginning: Yacht Haven USVI.
Officials of the hotel's new owner, Island Capital Group, have said its planned marina complex will be the "single largest megayacht basin in the world … a marquee for the Virgin Islands."
Work on that "marquee" is proceeding full steam ahead.
John Stadler, Island Capital's construction director, has a hand in every aspect of the project. He takes pride in the intricately detailed project model on display in the company office on the property. The model, about 15 feet long, showcases a microcosm of the planned project, complete with tiny people, automobiles, walkways, docks, restaurants, other structures and foliage.
Stadler's first concern is safety, he makes clear as he and Stephen McDonald, Manhattan Construction Co. project executive, take a visitor on a tour of the site. Manhattan is the project contractor.
Visitors, even those walking with the bosses, must first sign a clipboard noting time in and purpose, and must wear long pants, hard-soled shoes, protective glasses and, of course, a hard hat. Still, you walk gingerly, watching out for pieces of metal protruding from unlikely places, moving machinery, and unexpected holes in the ground.
One hole, a rather big one, has been turned into a loading dock. Stadler says they realized when clearing some buildings where the old courtyard used to be that there were cisterns underneath. These became makeshift loading docks. Was that serendipity? "No," Stadler says. "It comes from experience."
Stadler also keeps a close eye on the aesthetic aspects of the project. "Robert de Jongh gives us advice on the architectural and cultural background of the territory," he notes. "His help has been invaluable." De Jongh is a local architect who has practiced in the territory for decades.
The demolition phase of the project will take about five months, and Stadler says it is running on schedule, "maybe a bit ahead." According to McDonald, it should be completed in late August or early September. It started on March 13 with ceremonial festivities. (See "Many Celebrate Yacht Haven Groundbreaking".)
Asbestos Abatement Tightly Controlled
The demolition and asbestos abatement work is well under way, the site cordoned off with ribbons. The Environmental Protection Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, the local regulatory authority for all work impacting the environment, closely monitors the progress and all procedures, Stadler says.
All asbestos abatement work is carried out in controlled, contained environments, he says. A dozen or so trailers sit on the site or across the street. Contaminated material is placed in what are called "bladder bags," to be shipped in the sealed containers to landfills on the mainland that are authorized to dispose of asbestos. An independent materials testing laboratory does daily air monitoring, checking compliance procedures set by environmental oversight agencies.
Now sitting in what was the old Yacht Haven central courtyard is a pile of clean concrete rubble. The 12,000 to 15,000 cubic yards of material will be sorted, crushed and recycled for use in the new construction. Stadler notes that this will cut down on traffic, as the material will not have to be hauled to the Bovoni dump.
McDonald's main concern also is safety. "At least once a week, we have safety meetings," he says. "There is a 10-hour training course offered for supervisory personnel or any others that want to attend the classes. Once a month, everyone on the site has to attend a safety meeting."
McDonald manages Manhattan Construction, which is hiring local subcontractors. He says about 90 percent of the workers will be local, except for any specialized skills not available locally. For the demolition phase, he says, "we have about 45 to 50 workers right now."
For the total project, "it's hard to say the number overall," he says. "Anywhere from 15 to 45 subcontractors could be hired." With a job of this magnitude, he adds, "you start small, and build up."
Digging Basins for Dewatering
Stadler leads the way to the landfill end of the project where the "dewatering" process is taking place. He glances at the workers, sweaty in T-shirts. "I remember when I was a kid doing this work," he says. "I hated wearing shirts, and I used to get caught without mine. But you have to be so careful not to get scratched or cut."
Just in the last week, the area has changed dramatically. It looks like great armies of giant Basset hounds or badgers have been at work. Actually, with a little imagination, the yellow earth movers resemble overgrown anteaters. What about 10 days ago appeared to be a level field is no more. Hills of earth stand about 15 to 20 feet high; they will be reduced to about 10 feet when the work is completed, Stadler says.
The area is surrounded by about 3,500 feet of black nylon silt fence to reduce erosion. Stadler points out what is going on. A series of what are called settling basins (created by digging out the soil that now forms the hills) will allow the staged "dewatering" of dredged material from the harbor. After circulating through these basins, the material will return to the harbor filtered and clean.
This is in preparation for construction of the 160-slip marina, which Stadler says will start next week. Gone will be the old Bridge Restaurant, to be replaced by a two-story dining facility on a central pier extending more than 200 feet into the harbor.
The University of the Virgin Islands in involved in the project, too. Its marine studies area is conducting water-quality testing and collecting data to assure that the water meets the highest standards, Stadler says, and the work is providing UVI some needed funding.
When asked about the choice of name for the project, Stadler beams. "I think Yacht Haven USVI is real, real cool," he says. "I think it's important to stress that we are part of America."
For a historical perspective and a more complete overview of the project, do a search for "Yacht Haven" on this page.
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