June 18, 2004 - #23
St. Barts Under Construction
Over the past few weeks, the appearance of the island has changed quite a bit. In Saint Jean, in front of the airport, an underground cable that was not installed when the road work was completed last October meant that the road had to be broken so that a trench one meter deep had to be dug for access to install the missing cable. While this work was being done, temporary traffic lights were installed, one 50 meters before the turn-off for Match, and another a few meters after the entry to the airport parking lot. This causes traffic jams that resulted in a line-up of cars as far as the traffic circle at the top of the hill all day long. In Gustavia, on the street closest to the harbor, the municipal technical services crew took advantage of the re-paving project to put electric and telephone wires underground. The goal of the municipality is to create a pedestrian zone for part (or all if the residents of the streets agree) of Rue du Général de Gaulle. That would mean that cars arriving in front of Le Select would no longer turn left, but would have to turn right and follow the waterfront street toward the far side of the harbor. And last week, the harbor master’s office and the adjacent building were reduced to a pile of rubble. The construction companies have just until the month of November to build the new, more modern harbor master’s office, complete with an upstairs reception space.
As the municipality continues its renovation of public buildings, it has been in favor of slowing down private construction projects. The Mayor and the municipal council are aware that the economy of the island depends on the kind of tourism where the clients are seeking calm and tranquility. Demographics show that a large number of visitors to Saint Barth return for repeat visits to the island. Many of them have complained of the results of the island’s rapid development: too much noise, traffic jams, not enough parking places, heavy demands on the production of drinking water and electricity, and so on. To alleviate these problems, the local politicians hope to control the number of new building permits. They are hoping that the national laws of urban development and limited construction will support their case. St Barts is divided into zones where building is authorized and green zones where all construction is prohibited. Those buying land had best make sure that their lot is located in a zone where building is permitted or that it already has a certificate allowing building, an document that is obligatory to ask for a building permit. The politicians contend that the zones where building is permitted will not be enlarged. As a result, certain construction companies that employ a large number of Portuguese workers will be obliged to reduce their work force, yet there is still a lot of work on the island.
Many hotels have taken advantage of the slow summer period to rejuvenate. This year, the largest of these renovation projects are the Eden Rock and the Sereno. Both hotels will reopen on December 15. The Sereno will have a new restaurant and renovated bungalows. The Eden Rock has take over the old Filao Beach Hotel and will have additional suites and cottages, while the main building, that dates from the time of Rémy de Haenen in the 1960s, has been completely redone to look exactly the same as it always has. As for the Guanahani, it will close its doors on August 22 and reopen on December 15 with renovated room and suites, as well as a new Clarins Spa.
More to come