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Ritz Carlton Condominiums in St. Thomas Explains Why It Won’t Open on May 25 As Scheduled

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — We are happy to share some news regarding the Club, it’s restoration, and the projected opening time frame. While progress has been steady and positive, we are not where we wanted to be in the restoration. The team continues to make great progress on a host of items including elevators, air conditioning, unit interiors, furniture, power generators, landscape and our beautiful beach. All of this to ensure that upon your return the Club it will be “Better Than Ever.” Unfortunately, we will not meet the previously reported May 25, 2018 opening date

Note that for each of the restoration items, not only do we have to do the construction work, but this begins only after we obtain a suitable agreement with the insurance company, get competitive bids for the work, obtain equipment and execute contracts. Much of the equipment requires finding the best sources stateside, arranging for shipment to Florida and then travel over the water only to be received by the St. Thomas excise yard. This last step can take a frustrating amount of time.

Overall

Drawing from our most recent update we now have 68 unit interiors turned back to us by the remediation company and almost ready for service. I say almost as we are still installing the air conditioning systems that include both roof top equipment and adjustments to the in-unit systems. Note that all the condensers have been replaced on Iris, Jasmine, Kava and Lily. Gardenia and Heliconia have cooling towers that were just set in place this week. Final hook-ups are proceeding. Elevator restorations are proceeding at a painfully slow rate. However, the full sense of “ready” will also need to include all elements including elevators, full power & back-up power, a completed outdoor environment and food & beverage options.

Landscaping

Final negotiations are proceeding on insurance claims as well as final designs by EDSA (Baltimore landscape architects) that will include significant improvements to our landscape.

Many of the plant selections will feature a decidedly fresh look and we will have new lighting and focal points. We are also evaluating some other great ideas by EDSA such as fruit trees and new flowering plants and trees. We trust the Members will love the upgrades. Our beach restoration expert is in the final stage of submitting our permit application to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources Coastal Zone.  We believe we know how much sand we need to begin our restoration, several thousand tons, and, that sand must be approved by local authorities to ensure it is compatible with our existing beach environment. So far, we await an approved sand sample. We can also share with you that, to some extent, the beach is slowly restoring itself as large volumes of sand are being deposited by natural wave action. We are monitoring this carefully as this will reduce our beach restoration costs, a cost not covered by insurance. Unfortunately, we can’t wait for Mother Nature to do the full job, so we must supplement that effort. The restored beach is going to be more expansive than what we knew prior to the hurricanes as erosion has occurred over time. Also, our beloved Sea Grape trees are being supplemented, so shade lovers will continue to have their favorite shady spot. As noted, this process requires a lengthy jurisdictional approval process.

Exteriors of Building Facades
Repairs and repainting is proceeding including gutters. We will have fresh paint on all our buildings – which will add to the wonderful improved look & feel of our property!  Repairs to and the refinishing of the unit entry doors is proceeding. This includes new locks and new doorplates. This effort is moving along well and possibly ahead of schedule.

Air Conditioning Systems
As noted, the AC systems are being installed and should be completed in April. The team is moving from building to building replacing and updating the systems. Note that this involves new roof top equipment.

Elevators
Several of the buildings have completed the demolition stage for their existing elevators. As we mentioned in previous messages, we are putting in 6 new passenger elevators, 1 new service elevator, and the remaining 5 service elevators are being repaired. Elevators are among the longest lead time items and we are proceeding at a steady rate. However, equipment had to be ordered, assembled, shipped to Florida and then to St Thomas. This is proving a painfully slow process.

Interiors of Buildings
As noted above, the remediation company is completing the full restoration of our residences and is turning units over to the Ritz-Carlton Management upon final inspections. Where required our residences will include new furniture, tile flooring, carpet and mattresses as well as linens and accessories. The team has had to order replacement furniture, which like the other elements noted, is a slow process involving shipping, receiving and customs. A reminder that the Suites Refurbishment Project is also occurring at this time. That means the Suites will all be freshly painted and have the new colors and designs consistent with the residential units. The team is working very hard and monitoring progress very carefully.

Electricity
WAPA has made significant progress to many parts of the island and power to our Club has been restored. As noted in the previous update, the Board moved to purchase a 1 Megawatt diesel generator. This diesel powered unit is now on-line and we are looking to purchase another to assure full backup should WAPA continue to prove unreliable. The Board has determined it is best to retire the 3 existing 500 Kilowatt standby generators as they have been running 24/7 over the past few months – and likely will give out soon.

Update on Club Opening
We understand that the Member’s interest, perhaps their primary interest, is our reopening date. From the discussion above, you can see that we have many unknowns in terms of completion. We also are very concerned that the Ritz Experience that Members expect will not be 100% until all the restorations are complete. Having recognized this, the Board is now clear that late May will not be an option due to time lines for our major projects such as elevators, landscaping and beach restoration. We update progress on these items weekly and are meeting in late April to review, in detail, our progress and projected timeline. We hope to be able to report to the Membership by mid-May.

Our grocery vendor has closed his business and although we are trying to find a vendor interested in providing groceries, we have not yet been successful. Coconut Cove & the Fitness Center are tied to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. While we understand that the hotel won’t be open until sometime in 2019, we are pleased to announce that the Fitness Center will open when our club re-opens and we are currently in discussions with the hotel owners to open Coconut Cove at the time we re-open. The Ritz-Carlton management is also pursuing an operator for Pelicans as well as an operator for the Grand Palazzo Club as our previous operator will no longer manage these facilities.

This means that we will not open on May 25, 2018 as previously communicated. As noted above, the Board, management company and insurance carrier will meet at the beginning of May to review current progress in detail to determine when opening will be possible. We expect it will be later this summer or early in the fall. So the next fair question is, what will happen to the summer allocations for which we all paid? Once we have an updated opening date we will work with Member Services to cancel any impacted summer reservations as well as the insurance carrier and management company to obtain either an alternative week/time or some form of credit depending on how the association’s business interruption insurance claim is settled. Please trust that the board will continue to work tirelessly on your behalf to obtain the best possible outcome. We ask for your patience – and will share later in May an update on the updated time for reopening.  However, Members are encouraged not to make travel plans until a final reopening date has been determined.

Lastly, please take a close look at the attached photographs to see the great progress that is being made to ensure that upon your return we are “Better Than Ever.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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