Jan. 30, 2007 – The former Renaissance hotel on St. Thomas' East End has changed hands again. Wyndham Vacation Ownership announced Monday that the company bought the beachfront property for an undisclosed price. It was lastly owned by Intercontinental Hotels, which planned to open the hotel in the spring as a Crowne Plaza five-star resort.
The property will now open in late 2008 after a $40 million renovation. Wyndham plans to convert the property's 290 hotel rooms into 143 condominium-style timeshare units.
"Wyndham timeshare owners consistently rank St. Thomas among their top locations for vacationing," Wyndham Vacation Ownership's President and Chief Executive Officer Franz Hanning said in a press release.
The condominium units include studios, as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The property will also have some presidential suites.
Lisa Burby, a senior director in Wyndham's media department, said that only Wyndham Vacation Ownership members will be able to book units at the property. Burby added that the company allows members to book at 75 Wyndham properties, as well as do an exchange with RCI Global Vacation Network Group.
The Wyndham property will also have two restaurants, a boat dock, a conference area, and a 5,000-square-foot pool overlooking the beach.
Wyndham also operates the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa, located just a mile down Smith Bay Road from the company's new property.
Wyndham Hotel Group President Steven A. Rudnitsky said that owning a vacation ownership property in close proximity to its Sugar Bay Resort benefits both.
"It offers travelers the best of both worlds: a resort hotel for casual visitors and an upscale vacation ownership destination for those who choose to make a long-term investment in family getaways," he said.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in the press release issued by Wyndham that the project was a boon for the hospitality industry as well as local contractors and development firms that will get work from the project.
In August 2006, a local company, Pineapple Palm LLC, bought the property and planned to open it this spring as an Intercontinental Hotel's Crowne Plaza Resort. Pineapple Palm principal William Graulich could not be reached for comment. No one could be reached at Intercontinental for information on why the company was no longer involved in the project.
When questioned about the situation, Burby danced around the question.
She said Wyndham did research after it discovered "a really great opportunity."
Tourism Department Marketing Director Steve Bornn said Tuesday that Wyndham's interest in the property demonstrates the viability of the St. Thomas market.
"Wyndham is an excellent operator of timeshares. It knows the Caribbean like the back of its hand. It's very experienced in this market," Bornn said.
The resort first opened about 20 years ago. In the interim, it's gone through several name, ownership and management changes.
For several years it operated as the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort, which is what most residents still call it. ? A Mexico-based company, Palace Resorts, bought the Renaissance in 2003, but operated it only as the Grand Beach Palace for less than a year before shutting it down for renovations. ?
After an announcement was made about the proposed closure, the Legislature called hearings. After the hearings, Palace attorney Derek Hodge said government hostility convinced Palace officials not to reopen the property, which then went on the market.
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