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Public Works: No Road Closures During First Year of Main Street Enhancements

No road closures are anticipated during the first 12 months of the long-awaited Charlotte Amalie Main Street enhancement project, Commissioner of Public Works Gustav James told downtown stakeholders Monday evening at a meeting at Government House.

Main Street’s overhaul is scheduled to begin Jan. 11 and may take up to 20 months to complete, James said.

Tip Top Construction, the St. Croix-based company awarded the contract for the job in October, has not yet completed a final schedule for the project, according to Joe Hollins, the company’s president. However, he expects to announce one in mid-December.

“We don’t really foresee many large obstacles in the management of this project,” said Hollins. “We think it’s a pretty straightforward and well-designed project.”

James said that the two major components of Main Street’s renewal are underground and surface enhancements, which will be done in different phases. The underground phase of the project, which will last approximately 12 months, involves improving Main Street’s storm drainage system and installing underground utilities including a water main and new sewer lines.

During this time an archaeology monitor with the power to halt the project will work with Public Works and Tip Top as is federally mandated. Previous construction projects in Charlotte Amalie have uncovered rich archeological sites.

Main Street business owners were reassured Monday the street will remain open to car traffic during the project’s underground phase. Sidewalks will also remain open.

James said that the North Side of the street will be dug up first; the South side will follow. Crews will work only from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. so as not to disturb downtown commerce.

“We don’t want the pain of the operation to be excessive,” James told stakeholders, while stressing the importance of Main Street’s shops to the St. Thomas economy.

After the underground portion of the project is completed, Main Street’s surface enhancements will take place over the course of eight sub-phases moving from east toward Post Office Square, said John Woods, a consultant for the project from Jaredian Design Group.

In addition to cobblestone paving for the street itself, the project includes the installation of new sidewalks, lighting fixtures, and palm trees and benches that will mark the alleyways off of Main Street.

Woods said that many of these features will resemble enhancements made to the area surrounding Market Square from 2011 to 2014.

“If you want to get a snapshot of what Main Street will look like when it’s finished, go to Market Square; similar trees, similar lighting, benches, paving, all of it,” said Woods.

Tip Top’s contract with the V.I. Government is for approximately $8.5 million, said James, but after his department’s overheads and fees for consultants are added, the cost for the Main Street enhancement project will be “well above $10 million.”

“This is our time to show you that we are a serious company, and we are a local company, born and bred in the Virgin Islands,” Hollins said. “We intend to bring back the economy of the Virgin Islands by employing and working with companies that are based here in the V.I.”

Federal Highway Program manager for Public Works Wystan Benjamin introduced his team for the Main Street project as manager Nelson Petty, lead engineer Jomo McClean and inspector Myron James

On Tip Top’s side, David Baird will serve as project manager.

Benjamin said that during the project Public Works will be meeting twice per month with a “core group” of Main Street stakeholders to include president of Downtown Revitalization Inc., David Bornn; St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce President Sebastiano Paiewonsky-Cassinelli; and owner of Royal Caribbean Gautam Daswani.

There will also be a general downtown stakeholders meeting held on a quarterly basis to discuss the project’s progress.

Also present at Monday’s meeting were Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty; St. Thomas Administrator Merwin Potter; St. Thomas-St. John Police Chief Darren Foy; Director of the State Historic Preservation Office Sean Krigger; and representatives of the Department of Justice, the Department of Property and Procurement, the Historic Preservation Commission, the V.I. Next Generation Network, and the V.I. Water and Power Authority.

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