The air was thick with sea salt as more than 100 guests arrived for a preliminary glance at the concept behind Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef, which is undergoing major renovations after the 2017 hurricanes, and the new Noni Beach Resort.
The completed renovations will total near $300 million and are halfway done, according to Mark Brugger, the co-founder, president, CEO and director of DiamondRock Hospitality Company.
Upon entering the building guests were invited to meander through the space that featured 17 computer-generated renderings of what the resort will look like when the work is done, a photo booth, two completed resort rooms and a large open patio complete with several food tasting offerings. Guests flowed from the building’s entrance and out onto the spacious patio, holding fresh coconuts filled with the locally famous “painkiller.”
The event, “Taste of Frenchman’s Reef,” showcased small bites as part of the new planned eateries and bars that were conceptualized by Chef Richard Sandoval.
Brugger said the company is thrilled to bring back Frenchman’s Reef. The grand reopening of the “world class asset” is scheduled for the fall of 2020.
“There is an entire team, many of which are here today, who are working very hard to achieve that goal,” Brugger said.
One of the buildings will not only be part of the resort’s accommodations, but act as a hurricane shelter, which can house more than 700 people in the event of a natural disaster. Brugger said the shelter will be able to withstand winds over 195 mph, and the entirety of the resort has been built to modern hurricane codes for resiliency.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. told attendees the resort “has been here through the thick and thin,” and is a part of not only the history of the territory but a large part of the economy.
“This hotel represents 9,000 room nights a month. I remember in 2010 when they did the $50 million rebuild and you could see the dip in the gross receipts because Frenchman’s Reef had been closed for six months during renovation. As soon as they opened, we flourished again,” Bryan said. “The Frenchman’s Reef has always been a center of our community here in the Virgin Islands.”
Though much of the resort was far from complete, two finished rooms were presented to guests who were given tours of the spaces; a standard resort room and a couple’s suite located close enough to the ocean that guests could feel sea spray on their skin while standing in the room’s adjoining patio.
Each room was lavishly furnished, boasted gleaming tile backsplashes and natural wood tones. O’cena Liburd, who gave tours to guests of the couple’s suite, said several special touches were kept in mind, such as LED clocks contained within the bathroom’s mirror, waterfall shower heads and a minibar crafted for the indulgent.
Not available for viewing, but shown through large-scale computer-generated images, were several other inklings as to what spaces within the resort may look like when the work is complete.
The Morning Star Pool concept featured the addition of 102 lounges, 16 in-water lounges, seven cabanas, 10 table arrangements around fire pits, 30 dry-bar seats and eight in-water bar seats. The new lobby spaces and restaurants were also displayed for guests to marvel at.
Bryan told the guests that people from all over the world soon will be able to enjoy the accommodations and amenities of the Frenchman’s Reef, which he added keeps an 80 percent occupancy rating year-round.
“Frenchman’s Reef is part of the fabric of the territory and one of the things that makes us strong,” the governor said.