The St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored an Economic Summit where two sets of plans were shared for the revitalization of downtown Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas. One plan was presented by Daryl Smalls, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and the other was presented by Sebastino Paiewonsky Cassinelli, a representative of the private sector. Representatives from St. Thomas’ business community were asked for their feedback.
Although the two proposals are very different, both seek to rejuvenate the heart of the business and tourism district of the territory’s capitol. The plans represent different philosophical approaches and consequently will produce two very different outcomes.
“This project is very significant for our community,” stated AARP VI State Director Denyce Singleton, “Virgin Islanders are being asked for direct input into making our community well-designed for all. This $50-million project will not only beautify the territory’s capitol, but it will create an accessible environment for residents of all ages and physical abilities, shop employees, and tourists alike.”
Governor John deJongh (D) opened the Economic Summit before an audience of 150, and stressed his concern that the Virgin Islands are at a juncture where it needs to find its niche. The territory must be a unique and desirable tourism destination. He was troubled that with there being so many Caribbean destinations, the VI just doesn’t stand out as it once did in the tourism industry.
AARP VI agrees that the revitalization of Charlotte Amalie must be part of the overall tourism marketing plan to give the VI a competitive edge with world travelers.
“AARP views the project as one that can produce a win-win situation on many levels. The revitalization can achieve multiple objectives,” continued Singleton. “First, with appropriate planning and consideration for things like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, improvements to public transportation systems, sidewalks, street lighting, parking, alternative traffic routes, and beautification, Charlotte Amalie can easily become a premier “livable community.” We can solve our immediate economic needs with this project by creating jobs and stimulating our own economy. But more importantly, we can fix many of the non-navigatable issues that residents have had to deal with, and create a highly marketable tourist destination. The key here is the public’s desire to have a truly ‘livable community’ where everyone of every age and physical ability can easily navigate public spaces.”
AARP urges all Virgin Islanders to take an active role in determining the future of our capitol city. We urge everyone to familiarize themselves with both plans and be prepared to attend public hearings on the subject.
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