Albert Bryan Jr., Department of Labor commissioner and chairman of the governing board of the Economic Development Authority (EDA), said the center will help to reverse economic stagnation, provide employment and affordable housing, attract new businesses, preserve historic areas and increase government revenues.
On Sept. 10, EDA certified Island Crossings Shopping Center as an eligible TIF project. The next step is approval by the Legislature.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said his only concern was the timeline constraints on acting on the legislation.
"This is a lot to digest," Nelson said.
"Considering the drop in the market the last two days we have to act swiftly while Home Depot still has an interest here," Bryan said.
"I urge the body to act quickly," echoed Jim Watson, founder of Caribbean Development Partners. "We are planning a Dec. 2009 opening."
Josh Tate, vice president of Caribbean Development Partners, testified that they are going to develop a mixed-use center that benefits the whole community.
"There is a tremendous need for affordable housing," Tate said. "With a national tenant we will provide the means for a lower cost of living. We will provide employment opportunities in different labor markets."
According to testifier Eric Landers, president of Canyon Research Southwest, Island Crossings will generate a payroll of $12 million a year. They are projecting 500 full time employees in a wide range of jobs on site.
Tate said to save energy for all the users on site they have designed solar and wind power components to create roughly 20 percent of the power.
"We have been anticipating progress and economic development on this island for many years," Bryan said. "The interest of national chains such as Home Depot validates the strength of our economy and opportunity for future growth."
The Committee of the Whole also heard testimony on three requests for rezoning amendments.
Theodore Cohen, an authorized agent for the 1845 Corporation, requested an amendment on four plots in Estate Enfield Green. The request is for the change from R-3 (residential) to B-3 (business). The corporation would like to develop a shopping center with a service station. The property is located on the corner of West Airport Road and Melvin Evans Highway.
According to Naomi Joseph, testifier for the Enfield Green Homeowners Association, the issue is the gas station and the possibility of leaks in tanks that may affect well water. She also said residents are fearful of the possibility of loitering and crime.
"When we purchased our property we were told there would be no development in the area by Cohen," Joseph said. "We are feeling deceived by the man who originally sold us the land."
Joseph said the residents did not oppose a small convenience store.
Cohen said the property is not in the Enfield Green Homeowners Association and the restrictions do not apply.
Marjorie Emanuel, acting director and zoning administrator for the Department of Natural Resources, recommended a zoning amendment for a small grocery store. The developer is required to plant trees, shrubs and install fencing as a buffer and build the entrance off the highway.
"Just a small convenience store does not suffice," Cohen said. "It is not like we are building bars and dance halls."
The senators also heard requests from the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (HFA) for amendments for rezoning of 22 Strand Street in Christiansted from R-3 (residential) to S (special) for development of six affordable townhouses. Also requested was a rezoning at 13 Prince Street and 57A Hospital Street, Frederiksted from R-4 (residential) to S (special) for the development of 10 affordable dwellings.
Testifying for the HFA was Richard Brock, construction manager, who said the zoning allows for condominiums. He said the request for rezoning is to develop low-income and affordable housing. The housing in Christiansted is complete and will sell for $185,000 and the homes under construction in Frederiksted will sell for $195,000.
In and out of the hearing were Sens. Usie Richards, Jimi Weber, Shawn Michael Malone, Ronald Russell, Carmen Wesselhoft, Norman Jn Baptiste, Celestino White and Neville James.
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