|Caribbean Spruce Up
By K. Schipper
The Frederiksted Revitalization Project provides an inviting
entrance to the St. Croix port city that will entice visitors
to venture away from the pier into the historic town. A meandering
path leads from Verne I Richards Veterans Park toward the
Eliza McBean Clock Tower and beyond.
This port city on St. Croix, the largest of three islands
that make up the United States Virgin
|A meandering path leads from Verne I Richards
Veterans Park toward the Eliza McBean Clock Tower and
Islands, may have a
past that dates back hundreds of years, but with the turn
of the century its future was seriously in doubt.
Now, as work wraps up on the first phase of a two-pronged
community revitalization project, officials are optimistic
that the cruise ships - which at one point contributed an
estimated $50 million annually to the St. Croix economy -
will be back.
The key: upgrading important components of Frederiksted's
tourist-related infrastructure while maintaining its historic
good looks. And, it's a job for natural stone.
Kenneth Mapp director of finance and administration for the
U.S. Virgin Islands Finance Authority says cruise-ship visits
to St. Croix had declined over several years, starting in
“The business community became concerned, and then the
governor, Charles Kimble, (who is also chairman of the finance
authority) asked us to meet with the community in meaningful
way and discuss the issues,” says Mapp.
From discussion with the cruise-ship lines, Mapp says officials
were aware that their passengers were concerned about the
“shallowness” of the experience on St. Croix and
the lack of diversified activities.
|Plenty of new chipped-edge
pavers in Sienna Gold from Turkey and additional landscaping
are utilized to draw tourists to the clock tower.
“The overall result showed that St. Croix was not an
exciting port,” he says.
When concerns were initially raised about the cruise-ship
experience, Mapp adds that a Florida-based cruise association
has suggested officials contact Coral Gables, Florida-based
Coastal Development Systems, Inc.
“They had worked with the cruise lines on a number
of destinations in the Bahamian chain helping to build out
those islands,” Mapp says. “We met with them at
that time and had a good discussion, and they had a clear
understanding of some of the things you need to do to improve
the visitor experience for the cruise industry.”
The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks drove another large nail
into the coffin of cruise-ship visits to St. Croix. The following
year, with direction from the governor and business leaders,
the U.S.V.I. Finance Authority went ahead with a major project
to help revitalize Frederiksted.
Mapp says rather than work from the top down, the decision
was made to start the process by
bringing together various
entities concerned with different aspects of the community
in a lengthy design meeting, which took place in Frederiksted
in October 2002.
By that time, the finance authority had contracted with Coastal
Development Systems, and both Mapp and Coastal's president,
Harvey Sasso, say the five-day session was designed to get
input from a broad spectrum of the public.
“There were so many not-for-profits and business organizations,
as well as individual citizens who had been working for a
number of years to rebuild Frederiksted that we didn't want
to just bring in a firm with an idea and then implement it,”
“They're very effective on a couple fronts,”
says Sasso of the intensive planning workshops. “One
is that you get community feedback, so you know what's important
to the people, and you understand what the community is trying
to achieve. And, even if a planner has a good project, sometimes
it can be misinterpreted as being something thrown on the
community, and then you don't get the political support and
the financial support you need.”
Based on community feedback, Sasso says it became obvious
the number one need was to upgrade the waterfront park - with
its memorial to local veterans - and pier.
|Improvements to the shoreline
include a new, tiled seawall for Veterans Park, with new
concrete bollards with limestone caps along the top.
“It was seen as a real catalyst bring the cruise ships
back,” he says. “There aren't many cruise-ship
piers in the Caribbean where you can get off the ship and
walk through a garden into an historical town.”
By creating a beautiful arrival spot, the feeling was that
it would improve the experience for the arriving passengers
and also stimulate future conversations about the community
among their friends.
Once the visitors leave the waterfront area, it was felt
that it would also be critical to upgrade the amenities of
the community's main thoroughfare, Strand Street. The final
component of the first phase of what became the Frederiksted
Economic Revitalization Project is an upgrade to the Vincent
Mason Pool, in earlier times offered visitors another local
“The cruise lines would bus their passengers there
and have picnics and barbecues,” says Mapp. “However,
it had fallen into disrepair, and we wanted it completely
To complete the first phase of the project, the finance authority
entered into a design-build contract with Coastal. At the
same time, Mapp says that agency also committed funds for
historic restoration of public buildings in Frederiksted,
and to some repairs and improvements to the Danish-built Fort
Frederik that adjoins the park.
Sasso says he doesn't believe the project could have been
done as a design-bid-build one, based on the location and
the need to do a quality job throughout.
|The Turkish limestone extended
into planters to provide additional greenery around this
kiosk, designed to provide visitors and residents a view
of the ocean.
“It's not a project where you could go out and hire
a number of subs and sub out the pieces, the Coastal president
says. “In many cases, we had to self-perform the project,
and at its peak we had about 70 local workers on our payroll.
We were taking semi-skilled workers and showing them how we
wanted it done.”
To do that, Sasso says Coastal put a number of executives
on the site, including a superintendent senior/junior project
managers. A separate project foreman was brought in to oversee
the concrete work.
However by doing a design-build project, Sasso says he was
able to emphasize quality. In a bid situation, he says, it
would have been tempting to do more value engineering that
the client might have approved.
“For instance, it would have been cheaper to put stamped
concrete - rather than tile - on the face of the seawall,
or concrete bollards without stone caps,” he says. “But,
it would have cheapened the project and it would have been
a different project.”
Not that there isn't plenty of concrete in the project. Concrete
serves as the base for the driveways and the pier, and colored
concrete with crushed shells makes up some walkways.
|A newly paved sidewalk and
new street improve the look of Frederiksted’s main
commercial thoroughfare, Strand Street.
“We put just about everything on concrete for fear
of hurricane surges,” says Sasso. “We have to
anticipate there'll be a storm surge coming over the pier
and into the park at some point, and if we'd put it a sand
base, there's the potential for everything to wash out.”
However, topping the concrete along the driveways and the
pier is a mix of Sienna Gold limestone from Turkey and Carolina
limestone from the Dominican Republic. The two stones are
used mainly as paves, although the Carolina limestone is also
utilized in more-decorative ways.
“One of the reasons we could be a little more-cost-effective
is that I went to the factory personally to see the capabilities
of the Dominican manufacturer,” says Sasso. “We
didn't buy from a supplier in Miami; we bought it from the
source. We also had our purchasing agent down there on three
different occasions to explain how we wanted the caps on the
bollards and the caps on the gates.”
Sasso describes the supplier as a smaller manufacturer who
had to buy additional equipment to fill the order, which also
included cutting limestone pots from individual pieces of
his stone, and pavers in 8" X 16" X 3" and
4" X 4" X 3" sizes for the pier.
“Had we gone through a supplier, our acquisition costs
would probably have been two-or three-times higher,”
he says. “As a designer-builder, our strategy is to
go wherever we need to go to buy the right materials, and
do it cost-effectively because we make the effort to find
the right manufacturers.”
Sasso adds that the project had a similar relationship with
the Turkish supplier who provided pavers in 8" X 16"
X 2" and 4" X 4" X 2" sizes.
“The walkways and the driveways use the Sienna Gold
with chipped edges,” he says. “In the main square
we used the larger 2”-thick stones, but we felt we needed
the 3" stone for the heavy traffic out on the pier.”
|While new stone provided a
fresh face for Frederiksted, much of the work was more
than cosmetic. The top photo shows work continuing on
the marine facility, while the bottom reveals the job
of putting utilities below ground-level on Strand Street.
A late decision to move the utilities pushed the completion
back by a couple months.
Actual construction of the first phase of the project began
in May 2004 and was scheduled for completion in late 2005.
However, because of weather and a later decision to put utilities
underground, work is continuing into early this year, the
finance authority's Mapp says. As of January, he called the
work 85 percent complete.
In the meantime, a second planning session for the second
phase of the project was held last September, and both Mapp
and Sasso expect work on that part of the project - which
includes improvements to the baseball stadium and park and
the development of a cultural center, as well as addressing
some major drainage issues through the construction of a canal
- to begin later this year.
|The area leading up to the
customhouse also received new pavers. Along with the revitalization
project, several public buildings in Frederiksted including
the customhouse - have been spruced up.
Sasso says the first phase of the project has already brought
a lot of private dollars into Frederiksted, as well, and the
second phase will offer some opportunities for public-private
partnerships that should go a long way toward fully revitalizing
“Ken Mapp is a pretty visionary guy and he's taken a
chance with this, but I think so far it's playing out,”
Says Sasso. “The cruise lines are now coming in on a
regular basis to refuel, but I think in the next two years,
we're going to see some pretty heavy cruise ship visitation
coming back. My hope is that by the end of phase two the town
will have its own momentum.”
“There are a whole lot of people involved in luring
the cruise lines back, but this is helping tremendously,”
says Mapp. “When people come off the ships the park
is now a wonderful place to be, to sit, to walk and to eat
“We’re doing other things, and we're just making
this a wonderful place to visit.