Great Things Happening in Coral Bay!

coral bay harbor view

Well folks, let’s end the week off right! We have great news to share from you from Coral Bay!

Earlier this month, we told you about a very large trash pile that lined the street in Coral Bay. Well guess what? The area has been cleaned up! Check it out:

coral bay cleaned up may 2018

Now let’s drive up the road to the intersection at Centerline Road. The Coral Bay sign is in the process of behind rebuilt, and it looks great!

coral bay sign may 2018

Now let’s take a right and start driving toward the East End. The ball field, which acted as a temporary dump for months, has been cleaned up! And I saw seven donkeys grazing there yesterday! Check it out:

coral bay ballfield coral bay ballfield 2

And lastly, work is happening right next door at the Guy Benjamin school. The school has been closed for some time now, but the structures sustained major damage during last fall’s storms. Well it appears that the buildings will be torn down and temporary structures will be erected on the site. Check out the pics:

coral bay school project sign dumpsters at guy benjamin

How fantastic is all of this news today??!!

That’s all we have for you today, folks! Enjoy your Friday, and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

More Great Work Completed in National Park!

Image credit: Yelena Rogers Photography

Image credit: Yelena Rogers Photography

Well folks, we have more great news to share with you all today! Thanks to the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, the Francis Bay walking trail has been repaired and is now open to all visitors. And you know what? It looks great! Here are all of the details straight from Friends of the Park:

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the boardwalk, it weaves park visitors through the forest of sea grape, maho, and mangroves between the beach and the salt pond, offering a unique and valuable opportunity for people to peacefully observe the animals and plants that thrive in the marsh-like ecosystem. Since the Friends first constructed the handicap-accessible boardwalk more than 10 years ago, VINP has offered weekly ranger-led birding hikes and provided field trips to hundreds of classrooms. Additionally, the boardwalk is noted as a prime bird-watching trail by the VI Audubon Society and has been visited by scores of professional and amateur ornithologists. With the reconstruction of the boardwalk, these activities can resume.

Work to restore the trail began on April 16th with the Friends’ trail rehabilitation crew led by Friends Trails Coordinator Mark Gestwicki and Friends President Joe Kessler. Over the course of the restoration project dozens of volunteers joined the crew, including a young men’s service group from the Foundation House of Portland, Maine. Most of the boardwalk and its lumber was able to be salvaged, however, the process of recouping materials and rebuilding required creative field engineering. All areas of the trail are open and passable as a result of these individuals’ diligent and thoughtful labor. (Please note that the first viewing platform will be completed as soon as the water recedes.)

Image credit: Yelena Rogers Photography

Image credit: Yelena Rogers Photography

Image credit: Yelena Rogers Photography

Image credit: Yelena Rogers Photography

The Friends would like to share special appreciation for the considerable efforts and time given by Jeff Chabot, as well as to Todd Roskin for his contribution of lumber. The project was partially financed with donations from the VI Audubon Society, the Keely Family, memorial gifts made by friends and family of Mark Moroney, and members of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

It’s honestly amazing to see the sheer amount of kindness and hard work happening here on island. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say we are truly grateful.

If you would like more information on volunteering for Friends of the Park during your next trip to St. John, please contact Karen Jarvis at kjarvis@friendsvinp.org or call (340) 779-4940. 

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Popular St. John Business Lists For Sale

smoothie shack

Well folks, here’s another opportunity to own a business in paradise!

Colombo’s Smoothie Stand, the popular food truck located out on Centerline Road near Ajax Peak, recently listed for sale. The asking price: $235,000. Here are the details straight from its listing:

Colombo’s Smoothies has been an island landmark for 30 years. Offering refreshing tropical drink and more with an awesome view at an incredible location- the intersection of North Shore and Centerline. This turn-key business yields an opportunity of a lifetime; living the dream on an island, owning and operating a food truck in the Caribbean. Colombo’s is the only business located close to the North Shore beaches- there is no competition!! The mobile van is permanently parked as it is grandfathered in! There is 1/2 acre of leased land allowing space for expansion. 5yr lease. Rent is only $1545/month.

I know this must sound tempting to many of you!

Random side note: Did you know that several businesses here on island have sold to readers of News of St. John, including a couple this year! So it’s not out of the realm of a possibility that someone reading this story today may be the new buyer. Could it be you??

Colombo’s is listed with Holiday Homes of St. John. For more information, please email info@holidayhomesvi.com

Dear CBI Acquisitions (Investors that Manage Caneel Bay), Please Answer the Questions…

The entrance to Caneel Bay on May 21, 2018. Some mowing was done last week!!

The entrance to Caneel Bay on May 21, 2018. Some mowing was done last week!

So on Monday, we made a tiny comment in which we commended the Westin for maintaining its property unlike Caneel Bay. Well that comment triggered some emotions over on our Facebook page, and we were accused of “not liking” Caneel. That is untrue. I actually loved Caneel Bay prior to September 6th. I loved strolling its beautiful grounds and relaxing on its beautiful beaches. I loved having lunch with Jackie and the bartenders at the beach bar while enjoying the picturesque views over Caneel Bay. I loved chatting with the security guards and shopping in Caneel’s gift shop. And I especially enjoyed having a sunset cocktail in the upstairs lounge before heading over to ZoZo’s where I consistently received remarkable service and stellar meals. What I do not love is the recent behavior of CBI Acquisitions, the investment firm that currently oversees Caneel Bay. And I’m not the only one.

So today, I am going to cite the Virgin Islands Daily News, a well respected and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper here in the US Virgin Islands. (As you all know, I am a blog, not a newspaper. I did the “real news” thing years ago. I won some awards and then realized that newspaper life was not for me. And so here I am now, blogging in the Caribbean. And I could not be happier.)

On April 30th, the Virgin Islands Daily News asked CBI Acquisitions/Caneel to answer 12 very important questions. CBI Acquisitions/Caneel ignored the request. On May 14th, they again publicly asked the same 12 questions. And again, CBI Acquisitions/Caneel ignored the request. So today, more than three weeks later, let’s ask CBI Acquisitions/Caneel one more time to answer these very important questions.

Here is what the Virgin Islands Daily News wrote on May 14th:

Exactly 14 days ago on these pages, we listed 12 questions we believe CBI Acquisitions LLC must answer before any further consideration should be given to Delegate Stacey Plaskett’s bill granting CBI the right to operate Caneel Bay Resort for another 60 years.

We repeat these questions:

1. Why is CBI not required to pay a minimum annual rent under the terms of Plaskett’s bill?

2. How many St. Johnians actually work at Caneel Bay?

3. Why does Plaskett’s bill contain no deadline for reopening Caneel Bay and no penalties for failing to meet that deadline?

4. What experience does CBI have in developing and constructing resort properties?

5. Does Stoneleigh/CBI have the financial resources to develop and rebuild Caneel Bay?

6. Why doesn’t Plaskett’s bill contain safeguards to prevent CBI from “flipping” the proposed RUE extension — for a multimillion-dollar profit — to a major hotel developer such as Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton/Marriott or Rosewood?

7. How much in insurance payouts has CBI already received and how much more does it expect to receive?

8. What are the sources of CBI’s estimate of $100 million to rebuild Caneel Bay and of its professed need for a 60-year extension of the RUE?

9. Do we really want to rush to judgment on a bill that could impact $9.6 billion of economic activity for the territory over the next 60 years?

10. Was the $330,000 CBI spent on lobbying between April 20, 2017, and Jan. 22, 2018, to extend the RUE for Caneel Bay? If not, what was it spent for?

11. How much money has CBI paid to the Government of the Virgin Islands in taxes, fees or for any other reason since taking over Caneel Bay Resort in 2004?

12. How much money has CBI spent to provide food, clothing, shelter or other assistance to its St. John employees since the twin hurricanes hit in September 2017?

Exactly 12 days ago, we urged Delegate Plaskett and Mr. Gary Engle, CBI’s majority owner and managing member, to address each of these questions, preferably at a public meeting on St. John.

To date, neither Plaskett nor Engle has addressed these questions, nor have they scheduled a public meeting to do so.

So today, we join our friends over at the Virgin Islands Daily News in asking CBI Acquisitions/Caneel to publicly answer all of these questions. The ball is in your court Mr. Engle…

 

Great News from the Westin

westin sign

We receive a ton of questions regarding the status of the Westin, and today we have great news to share with all of you. The Westin is working diligently to reopen, and is currently on schedule to reopen in early January 2019. How great is that??!!

Workers are on property six days a week working to fix the damage. The beachside units suffered significant roof damage, and are currently being repaired. The hillside units, those located across the street, mostly received water and wind damage. So work isn’t as visible over there, although I can assure you it is happening.

Here are a few pics showing the work happening on the beach side. (Click the pic to enlarge.)
westin overview

westin 2

westin 3

westin lobby

The lobby

Prior to the hurricanes, the Westin was in the process of being converted from hotel rooms to timeshare villas. When the Westin reopens, it plans to have a total of 252 villas, which was the plan prior to the storms.

And one last thing I’d like to point out: The Westin continues to maintain its property despite not being open. So unlike Caneel Bay, the Westin looks fantastic to all of those who pass by. So a HUGE thank you to the folks at the Westin for caring about our community and keeping up on maintenance. Sometimes it’s the little things like that which speak volumes about a company’s character.

New Live Webcam!

island abodes webcam
Hello everyone and happy Sunday! For those of you who enjoy seeing live images of St. John, another webcam is now up and running!

Our friends over at Island Abodes recently hooked their webcam back up, and the views are great! You can see Cruz Bay, Pillsbury Sound, St. Thomas and some pretty amazing sunsets.

Click here to view the webcam. 

Click here to see all of the webcams that are currently up and running on St. John.