Dec. 7, 2006 — The Sunny Isles shopping center revealed its new face this week in a ribbon-cutting ceremony allowing lucky vendors and residents a first look at its new additions.
The shopping center added a 350-seat amphitheater with air-conditioned dressing rooms, state-of-the-art light and sound capabilities, and stadium seating. Alongside the new amphitheater is a playground area equipped with rubber turf and a sculpture garden that would allow vendors to sell their wares.
As people milled around the new entrance to the shopping center, many were amazed and pleased with the new additions to the area.
"I think St. Croix needed this," said Kathleen Sampson, Rainbow Juniors manager.
Sunny Isle has been a staple of the Crucian community for more than 30 years, and the deChabert family recently sold the center to Sunny Isle Developers — a company based out of Puerto Rico.
Dr. Ralph deChabert commended the new developers on their enhancements and for using local labor in their renovation efforts. The doctor explained what the area was like before it became Sunny Isles. "75 years ago all of this was abandoned cane fields," he said.
DeChabert said the shopping center became so important to the community, it was given its own name. "There was Christiansted and Frederiksted, and this was called In-sted," he said.
When ownership changed last year, many of the center's stores closed for business. Pueblo grocery store was first, followed by a series of stores including People's Drug Store, Sam Goody's, Diamond Cinema and Ole's Deli. Vendors who remained stayed hopeful the improvements would also improve business; although working through construction proved difficult at times.
Arnold Helenese, owner of Le Baron clothing store, said, "For tenants to conduct business while the construction was going on was like cooking in your kitchen while the house is under renovation."
Helenese was confident the improvements would be lucrative for the tenants, as well as the community.
"This is a world-class facility that will serve St. Croix today," he said. "There will be positive rebounds for years to come."
Helenese said the improvements to the new entrance would encourage tenants to improve their stores in an effort to keep up with the rest of the center.
Lorraine Carrady, who partnered with Howard Parnes of Houlihan & Parnes for ownership of the center, said the new amphitheater area is just the beginning of the many improvements the area will experience in the coming months.
Carrady said stores like Office Max, the Medicine Shop, and Champs Sports are scheduled to move into the center, and the developers are planning to add an indoor food court in January.
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