This past weekend, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. visited the condemned buildings at Tutu Hi-Rise to check on the progress of the demolition process that began two weeks ago.
Officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department did a sweep through the abandoned buildings on Oct. 16 to check that they were empty and ready to be torn down.
Contractors also have cleared the lots around the buildings and have started prepping the structures for demolition by securing plastic sheeting around the outside to minimize dust and debris. Beginning at the end of the week, workers will begin erecting six-foot cyclone fencing around the site before the actual demolition begins. The site will have 24-hour security and VIPD is scheduled to make another sweep of the area.
“This is a significant step forward for our recovery, and the demolition of these condemned buildings is a tangible sign of our progress forward and Virgin Islanders’ resilience,” the governor said. “While the destruction from hurricanes Irma and Maria was a tragedy, it also provides the opportunity to rebuild modern, affordable housing opportunities in safer housing communities that also provide economic development and self-sufficiency options for the people of St. Thomas.”
Virgin Islands Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham, whose agency is overseeing the demolition, said the future housing community that will be built to replace the destroyed buildings will be a low-rise, low-density, smaller community of 84 units. The apartments will be larger than the previous units and they will be energy independent, so residents won’t have power bills, he said.
“The demolition of these buildings is an epic moment,” Graham said. “It not only marks the first step in replacing the devastated Tutu Hi-Rise Apartment community, but it is also the first project in a 10-year transformation of our entire housing portfolio that will vastly improve the living conditions of our residents.”
The first phase of the demolition was awarded to RG Engineering Inc. for a cost of $2,969,013, and it includes five buildings – Buildings 10, 11, 12, 14 and 22 – for a total of 96 units that the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined were hit hardest by the Category 5 hurricanes of 2017 and pose the highest structural risk.
The V.I. Housing Authority received a Notice to Proceed on Oct. 19 to begin mobilization, with a date to complete Phase 1 of demolition by May 17, 2021.
The demolition will begin with Building 14 and progress toward Building 10; the demolition crews are scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.