Your tax dollars at work on Gifft Hill


Potholed, rutted, broken, dangerous, slippery, narrow, switchback-cornered Gifft Hill is going to get some attention, thanks to the federal government’s stimulus spending.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the South Shore road, near the Westin, to mark the start of an almost 3-mile road repair project which runs from the E&C service station in Cruz Bay all the way along South Shore, up Gifft Hill, past the school and onto Centerline Road.

At the event, Governor John de Jongh conceded, “It will cause disruption. I hope people won't get too mad at Public Works, because it's all for the betterment of the community.”

The Route 104 project includes road reconstruction, pavement overlaying, guard rails, new signs and other improvements.

"It's a local contractor local people are employed in the project. It's exactly what President Obama was looking for,” the Governor said.Financing for the job is being provided by an $18 million Stimulus allocation to the territory.  Other projects on St. Thomas and St. Croix will also be funded by  the money over the next two years.

Roundabout 9 months from completion


The St. John Roundabout project has been underway since August of last year.  Supervisors are confident they’ll complete the nearly $7 million job a bit ahead of schedule, by next June, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.

This photo is from the Islandia Real Estate blog. Its office building overlooks the construction site and offers periodic visual updates like this.

In fact, the Roundabout is already being used use.  Islandia says vehicles are using portions of the roundabout even though the work continues.  Things still left to do are completion of moving utilities underground and making connections, building some curbs and, of course, paving.  “For the most part, structures are complete,” Wystan Benjamin, of Public Works, told the Daily News.

Grande Bay wants a break


Developers of the Grande Bay condo project are asking for some public support in advance of a rezoning hearing this week.

At a meeting open to the public at the Marketplace, Bay Associates’ Kelly Frye made his case to the 15 people who attended that approval of the development’s latest rezoning request, which will allow it to sell the condominium units, is a good thing.  Frye said that his rezoning request actually will reduce the number to be built, from the already-authorized 14 to six.

Implicit in Frye’s remarks was a warning that Bay Isles needs the additional sales to sure additional financing so it can complete the project.  No rezoning?  No resales? No ????!

The St. John Source reported on the meeting in this story: http://stjohnsource.com/print/79684

A number of people who attended the meeting were critical of Frye and the project, the Source reported. Their complaints were that the three-story waterfront project is out of scale, and inconsistent with the island’s ecology and atmosphere.

A Grande Bay condo owner Jennifer Harrington of Minneapolis, was one of those who attended the meeting.  She told the Source, “We’re a little embarrassed to be part of this.  we’ve learned how hard it is for the whole island.”

The rezoning hearing is set for Thursday, Oct. 1.

More about Paradiso, etc.


Still no comment from the folks who own/manage the Balcony, Paradiso, Asolare and Chloe’s

First word the eateries were “in trouble” cropped up a week ago, courtesy of Anthony Finta’s Virgin-Islands-On-Line posting.  An e-mail to the company brought no immediate response, nor anything since then.

However, the Inquiring Iguana's publishing the story this week has brought more information.

  • One commenter alleged some employees of the restaurants are owed “thousands” of dollars in back pay and have been afraid to stop working for fear they’d never see a penny.
  • Another reader found that the company’s Web site, stjohn-restaurants.com, is now off line.  The site is apparently maintained by Andy Clausen at Savant Media Group in Coral Bay.

The Cleveland Clinic will see you now

The Cleveland Clinic has come to St. John, via telemedicine and generous financial contributions from the island’s Donald Sussman and St. John Rotary.

A ‘virtual office” at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center is being outfitted to provide opportunities for specialists at the famed Cleveland Clinic to examine and diagnose St. John patients.  The Virgin Islands Daily News, reporting the launch of the project, said specialty services  including pulmonology, rheumatology, dermatology and cardiology will be available.

Sussman, who has been generous many times with donations on the island, kick-started the project with a donation to Rotary.  The Club then agreed to support the project’s operations for three years, the newspaper said.

Obviously, being in the middle the ocean, and at least 45 minutes
from a hospital on St. Thomas, the availability of top flight medical
care is desirable and now possible.

New restaurant in Stone Terrace location


Nile and Courtney Wright have leased the former Stone Terrace restaurant space in Cruz Bay. They are planning to open a moderately-priced Mexican restaurant in about two months. (Picture at left is from Nile's Facebook page.)

“My wife and I are looking forward to making the tastefully built building in prime location become alive again!,” Wright told the Inquiring Iguana.

“Our overall theme is eclectic Mexican cuisine that is upscale, but not overly pricey,” he said. 

Given the perceived uncertainty about the island’s best known upscale restaurants, Wright’s decision to be mid-range makes a lot of sense.

In fact, Wright's talking about value meals. “ It is also very important to me to not only serve excellent tasting food, but to give our customers hefty portions for plenty of leftovers.”

Doggy bags on St. John.  That would be a first!

But man cannot live by tacos and enchiladas alone, he said. “We also going to roll out our signature drink, the ‘Mexican Martini’, that is served with a full shaker for multiple refills."

Four fine restaurants in trouble?

4restaurantsUpdate:  There is now a report that one of the four eateries, Chloe and Bernard's, has closed.  The upscale restaurant at the Westin has had several operators during its life.

The hotel's Concierge desk confirmed, saying Chloe's is closed "this month, for the slow season."

It's reasonable to expect the second-floor space in the main Westin building will be in operation as another restaurant by winter season.  They won't allow the space to go empty.

Anthony Finta says he’s heard that the company which owns four the island’s best restaurants “may be going under.”  Finta passed along what he’s heard on Virgin Islands On-Line, the Web site he’s run for what seems like at least 10 years.  He is a true Internet pioneer.

In his posting early Friday, Finta said, “(I) am sort of loathe to post rumors and such – but this is pretty juicy.

"Hearing various rumblings that the restaurant group that includes Paradiso, Asolare, Chloe & Bernard’s and the Balcony may be going under. With the Stone Terrace already closed, this would be a huge event to St. John fine dining.”

Certainly we know the economy has been awful.  Even so, there has been very little turnover activity – or closings – among island restaurants.

Oddly, despite the popularity of these restaurants, only two comments were made on the report in the first 24 hours.   JohnLMBZ06 said, tongue in cheek, “That would not be good. Except for my wallet since my wife is so insistent that we visit those places every time we go."

"Devastating," was the word Mrs. Inquiring Iguana used.

The Inquiring Iguana sent an e-mail to the restaurants’ Web site (www.stjohn-restaurants.cxom), asking for a response, As of Saturday evening., none had been received.

La Plancha’s Saturday Night Food Fever

LaplanchaThe best-received new restaurant of the year isn’t resting on its good reviews.

La Plancha del Mar, stuck back in a hallway at the Marketplace shopping center continues to give diners a reason to find them.  Great drinks, tasty entrees and reasonable prices have been the draws for the first year.

Now, La Plancha is adding ‘surf or turf’ options.  Every Saturday night, starting at 5 p.m., the restaurant is offering Prime Rib and a raw bar, including oysters, steamed mussels from Prince Edward island, and shrimp cocktail. 

This is a big step for these guys, to do this on little St. John with its legendary supply chain challenges.  But the owners, Jason Howard, Jonathan Fritz, and Mike Prout have shown they know what they’re doing.