Hurricanes dent tourism

"The geography of the American people is so poor," said Beverly Nicholson, president of the V.I. Hotel association, said as she reported a drop in the number of cruise ship visitors to the islands in September.  The number of people arriving by air, however, rose. News of storms affecting other islands led many people to assume the VIs had also been damaged, the St. John Source reported.  However, she added, territory-wide, September hotel occupancy averaged 38.8 percent over last year’s 29.5 percent.

Looking ahead for Christmas tourism, the industry is very optimistic.  Nearly all hotels on St. Thomas and St. John are booked solid, the report said, including even smaller properties such as Estate Zootenval on the smaller island.

Land donated for civic center

The St. John Community Foundation is planning to develop a civic and cultural center on 2.5 acres of mid-island land that’s been donated by Reliance Housing Corp., the developer of affordable housing on Gifft Hill.  "This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to us," organization President Lonnie Willis told the St. John Source.  This kind of facility could be used by local organizations and individuals for events and meetings which have opted to rent or pursue donations of space at the Westin Resort, local restaurants and other venues.  Carole DeSenne, the Foundation’s director, said she expects the center could also host family celebrations, weddings, and graduation parties.

Now comes the hard part, Desenne conceded, raising the money.  Willis said the project will be undertaken in phases and, as yet, there is no timetable.

Doing good and having fun

Vacationer or visitor, there are lots of worthy causes on the island that, in exchange for your support, Will also show you a good time.  The annual Sprauve School Benefit, at Caneel Bay, is a wonderful event.  The food is great, the wine wonderful, and the raffle and silent auctions very rewarding, no matter whether you win or lose. The gala will be Saturday, Jan. 22. Tickets are $75/person.  For reservations, call Peggy Blitz at 340-715-6622.

Then there’s the St. John Art Festival, Feb. 19-26.

Groundbreaking for high school

StjohnschoolA formal kickoff to construction of the gymnasium at the St. John School on Gifft Hill was held Monday, according to a report by the St.John Source.  Initially, the gymnasium will house classrooms for the school which was recently organized by the merger of Coral Bay and Pine Peace schools.  It is hoped the structure will be complete by March, said co-administrator Scott Crawford.  "This is an historic occasion. This is the first high school campus in the history of our island," he said. Students were asked to prepare a time capsule for the building.  Until construction is done, high schoolers will continue to meet at the Lumberyard, while the Pine Peace site will accommodate younger pupils.

Real estate update: 11/29/04

Stuffed fuller than a Thanksgiving turkey is one way to describe the inventory of residential properties on St. John right now.  There are more listings on the Multiple Listing Service than I’ve seen in a year.  An economist could be expected to say the result could be some softening in pricing, especially in the $1 to $2 million range.  But that’s between you and your real estate sales person.  (The island’s full of good ones.)

In the past 10 days, two properties came off the MLS and four were added, leaving a total of 50 homes.  Both houses removed were below the island’s median home asking price of $1.399 million.  They included a 3-bedroom/2-bath residence in Mandahl and an unfinished $895,000 Chocolate Hole, 3-bedroom/3-bath house.  Added to listings were an $829,000 Carolina 4-bedroom/4-bath, a 2-bedroom/2-bath with no pool at Enighed for $1.2 million, a 4-bedroom/4-bath Fish Bay property with no pool, at $1.85 million, and a 4-bedroom/3.5 bath with heated pool in Carolina, listed at $3.15 million.

The MLS inventory of land offerings increased by three, for the second week in a row, to 149.  Condo listings were steady at 7, timeshares also even at 93, and business/commercial properties unchanged at 9.

O’Connor heads Authority

Former Sen. Robert F O’Connor Jr. has been selected chairman of the V.I. Port Authority,  the agency that owns, operates and manage all of the air and marine ports in the territory.  The owner of O’Connor Car Rental on St. John has been a member of the board for about 10 years.  He told the Virgin Islands Daily News, "My goal will be to keep the Port Authority in the black instead of the red.  The Authority meets monthly at offices near Cyril King Airport.