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Thursday, August 11, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesWICO CALLS OFF YACHT HAVEN LANDFILL TALKS

WICO CALLS OFF YACHT HAVEN LANDFILL TALKS

The West Indian Co. Ltd. has halted talks with a Malaysian developer proposing to turn the Long Bay landfill acreage into an upscale "Asian Village" shopping center, WICO president Edward E. Thomas said Wednesday.
Representatives of wealthy developer Tan Kay Hock demanded a "yes" or a "no" by Aug. 31, a WICO release stated, and they got it: no way.
The WICO board decided at its meeting Tuesday to end the talks with Tan's company, Johan Holdings Berhad. The action was taken after Ian Peacocke, Johan Holdings general manager, wrote to WICO stating that Johan's board considered Aug. 31 the deadline by which "all issues should be resolved." Peacocke said his board was "adamant that we have a simple yes or no," according to a release from WICO, which termed the letter "an ultimatum."
Johan Holdings had been seeking a 99-year lease from WICO of the approximately 7.5 acres of bayfront landfill adjacent to the derelict Ramada Yacht Haven Hotel property, including marina rights over submerged lands. The company was proposing to construct what was referred to as "the Asian Village Project."
Under the proposed deal, Tan would have paid a nominal $1 per year for the property during the design and construction phases, estimated to take six years, and also for the first three years the mall would be in operation.
The talks with WICO came about after then-Gov. Roy L. Schneider announced that he had found in Tan Kay Hock an investor who would buy and rehabilitate the former Yacht Haven Hotel, the only sizable hospitality industry property on St. Thomas that has not been repaired and reopened in the aftermath of damage caused in 1995 by Hurricane Marilyn.
Tan Kay Hock did purchase the Yacht Haven property from a local bank which had acquired it from the group that formerly owned it. There has been no indication of Johan Holdings' intention or timeline to rehabilitate the ruins, or of what the property would be used for once rebuilt. That, however, is a separate issue from the landfill, which WICO owns.
"Initially…Tan had promised to construct a hotel, marina, convention center and park" at the landfill site, the WICO release stated. "However, as discussions continued, the scale of the project became increasingly limited until it became clear that the Asian Village Project would consist mainly of three stories of retail shopping that would compete with Havensight Shopping Mall and downtown businesses."
The mall, on property adjacent to the cruise ship docks, is owned by the Government Employees Retirement System and managed by WICO.
According to the release, earlier WICO proposals required construction of a marina and a public park on the waterfront as conditions for the reopening of discussions. The two entities "had reached, in principle, an understanding that a park and marina would have to be constructed," the release said.
But Johan Holdings Berhad rejected the proposal to make a new hotel and marina a part of the package, "without consideration of WICO's concerns that construction of another retail development, without a time-specific commitment to build a hotel and marina to draw additional customers, would be detrimental" to the existing retail market.
WICO spokesman Calvin Wheatley said it would not be impossible for talks between WICO and Johan Holdings to be reopened at some later date.
"Never say never," he said.
However, he added, the likelihood at present appears unlikely — "not as long as we hold to our position and they hold to theirs."

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The West Indian Co. Ltd. has halted talks with a Malaysian developer proposing to turn the Long Bay landfill acreage into an upscale "Asian Village" shopping center, WICO president Edward E. Thomas said Wednesday.
Representatives of wealthy developer Tan Kay Hock demanded a "yes" or a "no" by Aug. 31, a WICO release stated, and they got it: no way.
The WICO board decided at its meeting Tuesday to end the talks with Tan's company, Johan Holdings Berhad. The action was taken after Ian Peacocke, Johan Holdings general manager, wrote to WICO stating that Johan's board considered Aug. 31 the deadline by which "all issues should be resolved." Peacocke said his board was "adamant that we have a simple yes or no," according to a release from WICO, which termed the letter "an ultimatum."
Johan Holdings had been seeking a 99-year lease from WICO of the approximately 7.5 acres of bayfront landfill adjacent to the derelict Ramada Yacht Haven Hotel property, including marina rights over submerged lands. The company was proposing to construct what was referred to as "the Asian Village Project."
Under the proposed deal, Tan would have paid a nominal $1 per year for the property during the design and construction phases, estimated to take six years, and also for the first three years the mall would be in operation.
The talks with WICO came about after then-Gov. Roy L. Schneider announced that he had found in Tan Kay Hock an investor who would buy and rehabilitate the former Yacht Haven Hotel, the only sizable hospitality industry property on St. Thomas that has not been repaired and reopened in the aftermath of damage caused in 1995 by Hurricane Marilyn.
Tan Kay Hock did purchase the Yacht Haven property from a local bank which had acquired it from the group that formerly owned it. There has been no indication of Johan Holdings' intention or timeline to rehabilitate the ruins, or of what the property would be used for once rebuilt. That, however, is a separate issue from the landfill, which WICO owns.
"Initially...Tan had promised to construct a hotel, marina, convention center and park" at the landfill site, the WICO release stated. "However, as discussions continued, the scale of the project became increasingly limited until it became clear that the Asian Village Project would consist mainly of three stories of retail shopping that would compete with Havensight Shopping Mall and downtown businesses."
The mall, on property adjacent to the cruise ship docks, is owned by the Government Employees Retirement System and managed by WICO.
According to the release, earlier WICO proposals required construction of a marina and a public park on the waterfront as conditions for the reopening of discussions. The two entities "had reached, in principle, an understanding that a park and marina would have to be constructed," the release said.
But Johan Holdings Berhad rejected the proposal to make a new hotel and marina a part of the package, "without consideration of WICO's concerns that construction of another retail development, without a time-specific commitment to build a hotel and marina to draw additional customers, would be detrimental" to the existing retail market.
WICO spokesman Calvin Wheatley said it would not be impossible for talks between WICO and Johan Holdings to be reopened at some later date.
"Never say never," he said.
However, he added, the likelihood at present appears unlikely -- "not as long as we hold to our position and they hold to theirs."