Firefighters tackle blaze at abandoned St. Thomas hotel

Firefighters tackle blaze at abandoned St. Thomas hotel

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Firefighters quickly knocked down a blaze at the former Island Beachcomber Hotel on Tuesday.

The hotel has been sitting vacant for at least six years while the Virgin Islands Port Authority decides what to do with the property.

Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to reports of a fire at 10:40 a.m., and the first units on the scene found the second story of the abandoned building “fully engulfed in flames,” according to information provided by Fire Services Public Information Officer Jonelle-Alexis Jackson.

Firefighters brought the fire under control within 15 minutes of arrival, and no injuries were reported, according to Jackson.

Firefighters tackle blaze at abandoned St. Thomas hotel

She added that the Arson Prevention Unit is investigating the cause of the fire, and “The VIFEMS remains committed to uncovering the details surrounding the cause of the fire to prevent future occurrences.”

The Lindbergh Bay property is owned by the Port Authority, and the Island Beachcomber Hotel had operated there since 1957. But Port Authority officials issued a request for proposals in 2011, and expressed a desire to remove the long-time tenants in favor of another bidder in early 2017.

Hurricane Irma and Maria hit in September 2017 and severely damaged the hotel, which has stood vacant on the nearly two-acre beachfront parcel ever since.

The Port Authority issued a request for qualifications and proposals in September 2022 and received two responses. While VIPA staff recommended the agency begin negotiations with PCL Management, which proposed a 60-room, $17 million resort, the governing board voted in February 2023 to re-solicit the request for qualifications.

The governing board recently voted to authorize Executive DirectorCarlton Dowe to cancel the request for proposals for demolition and development of a hotel, and to consider other options for development of the property.

In response to questions from The Daily News, Public Information Officer Monifa Brathwaite said in an email Tuesday that the Port Authority is considering several possibilities, including but not limited to permanently canceling the solicitation, inviting direct negotiations, repurposing the property, and granting a property use permit.

The Port Authority left the vacant buildings standing for years because of “financial considerations and timing. The demolition of the property was included as part of the property development solicitations,” according to the email.

She added that there were “possibly” squatters in the vacant hotel, and that the Port Authority “is pursuing the funds to demolish the buildings.”