The Virgin Islands Port Authority has closed half of the most centrally located parking lot in Cruz Bay to create a staging area for construction of a Customs and Border Protection Building to replace the one destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The lot, located at the Victor Sewer Marine Facility across from the post office, provided parking for almost 30 cars but also served as a waiting area for people making quick stops or meeting passengers arriving at the nearby ferry dock.
On Monday, Feb. 4, residents and visitors found the lot closed, while a crew put up fencing to create a staging area for construction equipment and materials for the Customs facility.
A portion of the lot remains open to provide access to the ambulance boat and a limited number of spaces for general use as well as handicapped parking.
Construction of the building will begin later this month.
The new building will be slightly larger than the building previously located at the site “to accommodate the increase in traffic and Customs activities,” according to Monifa Marrero Brathwaite, public information officer for VIPA. “The layout of the new facility was designed by VIPA in conjunction with CBP agents,” she said.
The new facility is being constructed by Lemartec Inc., VIPA’s construction-manager-at-risk firm, at a cost of $1.7 million, according to Brathwaite, and is funded by VIPA insurance monies.
Meanwhile, VIPA is converting the “gravel lot” to a paid parking facility.
“The VIPA board recently authorized the executive director to advertise a request for proposals to select a private company to manage the parking lot at the Theovald Moorehead Dock and Terminal at Enighed Pond, St. John,” Brathwaite said.
“VIPA will evaluate all the bids received and select a company to operate the booth. This process will take about two to three months as the bids need to be advertised for at least 30 days, and then the company chosen by the in-house selection committee must be approved by VIPA’s board,” Brathwaite said.
The gravel lot can accommodate 150 cars but has become a dumping ground for broken-down vehicles.
The same week that parking was curtailed in the Customs lot, a new private parking lot only a block away opened at the site of the former Lumberyard Complex. That lot has ample space, but charges rates similar to the other three paid parking lots in the area.
Discussion groups on social media featured complaints that free parking is becoming more scarce, as well as comments by others saying the restoration of Customs facilities on St. John is critical to the island’s economic recovery.