Aug. 4, 2004 – William and Punch Partners, LLP has announced the completion of its acquisition of 588 acres of land on St. Croix's West End that it intends to develop as a major resort and residential complex.
In an open letter to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on Tuesday, William and Punch managing partners David Christopher "Chris" Elliott and Kevin A. Rames announced their plans to move forward with the development of a 400-room hotel, a marina, a casino, 160 residential lots, condominiums, two golf courses, retail shops, a convention center, botanical gardens and 300 acres of green space.
They said the $120 million project is expected to create 2,500 jobs.
Located between Rainbow Beach and Sprat Hall to the west and Creque Dam to the east, Estates William and Punch are included in the National Register of Historic Sites. The land was part of the Estate La Grange Plantation purchased by George B. Fleming after the sugar factory there went bankrupt in 1947.
The property has now been transferred from Fleming's Trust to the William and Punch managing partners, at a reported purchase price of $3.75 million.
In his letter to the governor, Rames wrote that "after many decades of laying fallow, Estates William and Punch will once again be productive. The work that will be done to achieve this goal will be for all of us, with our permission, and for the greater good."
At an April Senate hearing, some persons testifying expressed concern about what would happen to the property if the developers failed to secure financing, and also about the possible environmental impact of the proposed project. (See "Residents Want Resort Project, But…".)
Rames and Elliott say they have met since then with many concerned citizen groups and, as a result, have modified some their original plans. In the letter to the governor, Rames thanked the community for its support.
"Please be assured that if these public and private expressions of support had not been made, William and Punch Partners would have failed to achieve even this level of progress," he wrote. "In the future, it is essential that we remain committed to the goal of the development of St. Croix's tourism-related infrastructure, particularly in Frederiksted."
Elliott also expressed enthusiasm about the land acquisition. "I still feel as bullish as I did in 1997 when I made my first investment on St. Croix," he said. "I was quoted then as saying 'St. Croix is the best investment under the American flag,' and I believe it even more today."
He said the development partners "look forward to working further with the people of St. Croix to bring a new level of eco-, cultural and historical tourism to St. Croix."
Kennedy Funding, a private lender based in Hackensack, N.J., so far has provided William and Punch Partners $3 million in financing for the acquisition of the land. In a release issued on Wednesday, the lender touted the "prime beachfront property," saying that it "is headed for luxury resort development."
The release quoted Jeffrey Wolfer, president of Kennedy Funding, as saying that "once the zoning issues were resolved, we recognized the increased potential for this project and financed it accordingly."
The land "is largely covered with natural vegetation, with many knolls, vales and slopes that afford stunning vistas of the Caribbean Sea," the release stated. It also quoted Senate President David Jones describing the land as "one of the best properties on the island, No. 1 for development."
Kennedy Funding has financed diverse commercial real estate projects in the United States and Mexico as well as locations such locales as the Fiji Islands and Europe. These have included amusement parks, golf courses and sports complexes, according to its release.
Rames and Elliott credited Jones with playing a key role in the success of the project to date. "When things were antsy, Senator Jones met with us and our lenders and assured us the Virgin Islands would respond in a professional manner and that this project was something that could be supported by the government," Rames said.
The next public step in the process will be a hearing on the developers' application for the necessary Coastal Zone Management permits. Rames said he expects the permitting process will take up to nine months and cost up to $1.3 million. If all goes well, he said, construction will begin next year.
Rames said William and Punch Partners will host a "public announcement party" on Aug. 14 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Pier 69 in Frederiksted. "I wanted the announcement party to be at Pier 69 because the initial base of support for the project came from the management and patrons of that establishment," he said. The event is open to the public.
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