With Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s approval of a zoning change on Lovango Cay last week, the owners of Lovango Cay Holdings, LLP are moving full-steam-ahead to complete the first phase of a development planned for the small island between St. Thomas and St. John.
Mark Snider, one of the owners of the Lovango Resort and Beach Club, was excited to give the Source a peek at the construction now underway on the cay two miles off Cruz Bay.
There’s still a lot to be done to complete the Beach Club portion of the development, which is set to open on Dec. 23.
Construction crews were hard at work expanding the existing restaurant, erecting the frame for a 70-foot infinity-edge pool and constructing a small retail complex.
The resort now has the use of three docks, one of which will be used primarily by a ferry operated by Cruz Bay Watersports. The ferry will make seven runs per day from Cruz Bay, and private boats will be encouraged to use the resort’s 12 moorings to preserve the seabed from anchor damage. A complimentary tender service will be offered to resort guests.
Newly planted palm trees are gaining their footing on the shoreline, where a new boardwalk now runs along the waterfront. Sand from Barbuda will be brought in to surround the pool area, which will be located up the slope from the beach when the pool’s construction is completed.
Lovango Resort and Beach Club got as far as opening a restaurant – ZoZo’s H20 – to much fanfare in early February, only to be shut down less than two months later when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
ZoZo’s H20’s owner, John Ferrigno, parted company with the Sniders later in the spring. Ferrigno is now working with the leaseholder at Caneel Bay to open a restaurant on that property, which has remained closed since Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017.
The new chef at the Lovango Resort and Beach Club is Stephen Belie, who recently served as the executive chef at Little Palm Island Resort, a Noble House property on a small island off Key West, Florida.
The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The menu is posted (without prices) on the resort’s website and fresh seafood is featured. Meal preparation will continue in the resort’s fully equipped mobile commercial kitchen.
The restaurant has been expanded to seat 100 diners on the first floor. Construction is underway to build a second floor, which will include seating for 30, as well as a private dining area for as many as 12. Snider said the expansion was designed to be flexible and accommodate guests at weddings and special events.
Snider’s son, Matt Snider, is Lovango’s project manager for operations and Django Broer-Hellermann is project manager for construction. They both live here full time and together head the project’s leadership team.
Matt Snider said he expects the restaurant to employ between 25 to 30 people.
Gwen Snider, Mark’s wife, is also on the island working hard on the interior design for the resort.
The Sniders sought a zoning change from R-1 (low-density residential) to a Planned Area Development – a seldom-used zoning category that allows them to build the units for overnight guests in clusters rather than in blocks or scattered on individual lots throughout the 42-acre property.
Now that the zoning change has been approved, the Sniders are cleared to move forward on the 70 hotel units and to sell 14 more lots to individual owners who may choose to live in their homes or put them into the resort’s rental pool. Under the Planned Area Development designation, only 5 percent of the property can be developed.
Most of the units for overnight guests will be built on the south side of Lovango Cay, but Mark Snider said plans call for placing some luxury camping units on the pristine north side of the island.
The remaining 70 acres of the 118-acre island is primarily owned by ancestral St. John families and are sparsely developed.
Snider said he was looking forward to a new partnership with scientists from the University of the Virgin Islands to educate visitors and restore coral around the island damaged by the hurricanes of 2017 and climate change.