IRMA GAWD… Before, during and after the storm….

We often refer to our home in St Croix as “paradise” – and indeed it is in many ways. We have wonderful weather, beauty all around us, and a close knit community. All those things are wonderful, and help us in times like this…..AKA HURRICANE SEASON!

 We all know the risks of living on a little rock in the middle of the sea. Fortunately, we generally have lots of warning before a storm hits us. That’s good and that has some down sides too. The anxiety of “is it going to hit or not” builds with each day. When to put up shutters? How much should we do to secure our homes and yards? It sux to go to all the trouble to get ready for a hurricane, just to have it veer north and miss us. But even worse is to NOT prepare and have it hit us!

There’s a lot of discussion about this at the bars. And the closer to “zero hour”, the higher the anxiety. That’s where the close knit community comes in. Ziggy’s, the best gas station in the world, is “the” hangout on the east end of St Croix. And on Tuesday, the day before Irma hit us, Ziggy’s was a hub of activity. Great guys helping out neighbors all day who had, shall we say, “put things off” till the last minute. Everyone was sweaty and dirty but eager to help anyone who asked. The store stayed open late for last minute provisions, and friends (and strangers) hugged and wished each other safe harbour during the storm. Beer was flowing freely! Many neighbors were staying together in the “safest” house in the area. In spite of the impending storm, spirits were high, and love was flowing!

So Irma hit with her fury early on Wednesday…the winds howled and rain poured. Power was shut down at 6 a.m. and as of this writing, has not returned. But we made it, and other than a mess to deal with, we’re good. Our friends across the pond in St Thomas (we can literally SEE St Thomas from here) got the brunt of the storm and suffered very serious damage, as did several other islands. We were very lucky this time….they were not. So we’ll spend the next few days cleaning up, hanging out at Ziggy’s and comparing notes on damage as we get ready for the NEXT storm…..which is heading our way this coming weekend.

Life on an island….never boring!! Productivity, certainly not soaring!!

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Far from the maddening crowd….

When I was a teenager, my girlfriends and I absolutely LOVED to go to the beach in the summer. In those days, the more crowded the beach, the better as it increased our odds of meeting cute boys!! Nothing was more thrilling than seeing a sea of oil and lotion slathered bodies lying in the sun and occasionally making their way to ride the waves and cool down.

These days, my girlfriends and I STILL love to go to the beach, but now that we’re older (MUCH older), we prefer a more solitary experience. We are now thrilled by the sight of a scarcity when it comes to other bodies!  Amazingly, on an island that has some of the most beautiful, film-worthy beaches in the world, it’s not difficult to find a beach all to yourself!

Smugglers Cove Beach

Algarve Portugal Beach

I just returned to my beloved St. Croix after three months in the Algarve. The Algarve is the southernmost part of Portugal, and it’s known for its pristine beaches and perfect summer weather. I can attest to both, although the water there is way too cold for this Crusian girl to even think about swimming in! The Algarve is “the place” for Europeans to come several weeks on their summer vacation, so you can imagine how crowded it gets! All you can see for miles are beach chairs and bodies! As much as I LOVE the beach, I could only appease my inner teenager about four times during the whole summer! I was missing my private beach experiences of home!

The time away was wonderful and gave me time to reflect on what I love about my home and what I missed. Now that I’m back on my favorite rock, I will be going to the beach as much as I can possibly work it in, and I’ll look forward to the long stretches off white beaches all to myself!  So, if YOU want to escape the maddening crowds, consider St. Croix for a vacation, an extended stay, or a lifetime!!

Chenay Bay

Keeping Up with Kim: Q3 2017

KimEtAl-Portugal.jpgComparisons

I had the pleasure of spending nearly a month with my daughter and her sweetie (they live in St Croix) and my sweetie in Portugal. It was their first time in Europe and what a blessing it was to get to see them experience some of the many treats Portugal has to offer!

We have a condo in a little town called Tavira, in the southeastern portion of the country. The town has about 30,000 people, compared with St Croix’s 55,000. However, Tavira is a very old town, with a centerpiece being “The Roman Bridge” which is neither Roman nor Roman in origin (It was built when Tavira belonged to the Islamic Domain of Iberia, probably in the 2nd half of the 12th century).

Town2PortugalWe are a 7 minute walk from this bridge, and from the center of this bustling little town. Here, we wake to the smells of coffee and baking bread from the cafe below and the sounds of children starting their school day in the play yard. The sun stays up till around 9:00 p.m., so dinner is eaten late, and we drift off to sleep hearing the laughter of the revelers at the bar in our square.

It’s very noisy here!

FruitPortugalWe walk everywhere. The homes and apartments and condos all open right up onto the cobblestone streets. And there are literally 100’s of bars and restaurants in walking distance. We also go to the fresh open air market daily (except Sunday) to get our food, which is ridiculously inexpensive. We enjoy “bicas” (little expresso coffees) and Pasteis de Nata* (amazing little custard tarts) at the many cafes that line the streets. The lifestyle here is so classic “European” and so different from our life in St Croix (which is equally wonderful, just different!)

pasteis-de-nata-590x400Pasteis de Nata* were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. These monks were originally based in France where these pastries could be found in local bakeries. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country. Following the extinction of the religious orders and in the face of the impending closure of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834 the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The descendants own the business to this day!


Life in St Croix is quiet.

The beaches in St Croix are very accessible and typically not crowded at all. The water is crystal clear and warm. There’s just no water in the world like the Caribbean Sea!

BeachPersonWe hang out with friends at the beach, at the local (usually outdoor) bars, and get together over great meals in fantastic restaurants. Going to the grocery is an “event” here – it’s about a 3 hour event – with travel time and “catching up” time (you always see lots of friends at the store, and of course have to chat!). Food is less fresh and more expensive in STX, but the tradeoff is beautiful weather year round and easy access to this gorgeous water. There’s nowhere on earth quite like St Croix, and I am happy to call this little rock home! It’s wonderful to travel and explore new places…but there’s no place like home!

BeachBuckIslandIf you think you’d be happy living in a quiet, friendly, warm, tropical place like St Croix, we can help! We’ll help educate you about all the ins and outs of moving and living here, and help you decide between condo, home and land – and then help you find what you’re looking for. St Croix is a wonderful place to live and we love meeting and making new friends who are considering making a move to our island!

Contact us today!

REAL ESTATE NEWS: Q3 2017

1st half of 2017 vs 1st half of 2016

RESIDENTIAL

5.5% fewer active listings*
7% more sales
10% lower average sales price
Homes selling at 90% of listed price
Average sales price = $386,537
Median sales price = $280,000

CONDOS

15% fewer active listings
29% more sales
7% higher average sales price
Condos selling at 93% of listed price
Average sales price = $177,957
Median sales price = $145,000

LAND

About same number of listings
29% more sales
7% higher average sales price
Land selling at 81% of listed price
Average sales price = $78,635
Median sales price = $37,500

*Still not as much to choose from as we’d like…

FEATURED LISTINGS: Q3 2017

South Grapetree: $880,000
http://www.flexmls.com/share/wjmJ/85ASouthGrapetreeEB00820

GrapeTreeProperty1 GrapeTreeProperty2

This home has what most people want in a Caribbean home! Three large bedrooms, each with a private and spacious bathroom, large open living space, a huge pool & expansive pool deck with drop dead gorgeous north AND south shore views, an efficiency apartment on the lower level with private parking and private entrance, paved access, gated, auto generator, and views to die for! Walking distance to several beaches, too! Recently painted and very nicely furnished. Currently a successful vacation rental. The kitchen and bathrooms are a little dated, so Sellers are willing to give a credit at closing of $15,000 that you can use for either your closing costs, or to install solar, or put toward a remodeling project! MLS 17-1063


Judith’s Fancy: $1,599,000
http://www.flexmls.com/share/x0lv/1823JudithsFancyQU00820

JF1 JF2

This majestic home sits atop a small knoll-top in the gated and prestigous community of Judith’s Fancy. From the expansive, arch-ensconced, coral-tiled pool deck, you have 280 degrees of deep blue water in your face. You feel like you are in your own little world, and indeed you are.

The property sits on a full 2.6 acres, and the unobstructed views encompass the town of Christiansted, the white sandy, palm-lined beaches of the shore line, and the verdant hills of the North Shore. Beneath you are the crashing waves of Honeymoon cove, named for its beauty and privacy.

Inside this spacious and comfortable home you will also be enchanted by the views. And no worries about being comfortable in this house; you can open up the many windows and doors and enjoy the fantastic tropical tradewinds along with the views, or close them and enjoy the central air conditioning, especially since it doesn’t cost you much! The home and one guest house are equipped with Solar panels. This is a tremendous benefit here in St Croix, where our electricity prices are the highest in the US.

The kitchen and living areas are open, yet warm and inviting. You will love the gourmet kitchen with Wolfe 36″ range and sub zero fridge and find reasons to cook just to enjoy this space! All the rooms are generously sized and nicely decorated. There are special nooks and crannies everywhere, which adds tremendous interest to this three bedroom three bath home. The two car garage will also be appreciated, protecting your vehicles from the salt spray coming off the sea.

If you care to, you can also rent out one or both of the nicely done guest houses, either as vacation rental properties commanding $1000 – $1500 a week, or as long term rentals, fetching $1500 – $2250 a month. Or, reserve them for your family and friends who will no doubt want to visit!

There is also an adjacent waterfront lot that conveys with the property, where you could build another home and guest house, should you so desire. On St Croix, there is no nicer, more centrally located neighborhood than Judith’s Fancy. And in Judith’s Fancy, this home is one of the “crown jewels.” MLS 15-698


Rainforest Delight, $399,000
http://www.flexmls.com/share/yOyx/89Mt.VictoryNA00850

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Those of you with a big imagination, big dreams, or desire for a lot of privacy are in luck!  A large chunk of land (10 acres) in the Rainforest of St Croix zoned A1, COMPLETELY fenced and gated, with a rustic cabin and 540 sq. ft workshop has recently come on the market.  Grow your own food, create a private island oasis, create a campground, lots of possibilities! MLS 17-880

St. Croix News: Phase 2 initiated for Revitalizing Frederiksted!

Stadium

Taken from:  http://viconsortium.com/
ST. CROIX — A grand groundbreaking was recently held for the Paul E. Joseph Stadium, a project that commenced some 15 years ago, with the aim of revitalizing Frederiksted.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Pedro Cruz, whose department has a vested interest in the project’s development, thanked the Governor for securing the needed funds for this project, which he believes will give the people of St. Croix a very good and long-lasting product which residents and visitors will enjoy for many generations to come.

Stacy Plaskett, St Croix’s delegate to Congress, also spoke of the potential impact of sports tourism on St. Croix’s economy. “This project is a true commitment to the fortitude and development of the future of the entire Virgin Islands,” she said.

General Engineering Corporation (G.E.C.) President John Wessel spoke of the expanded vision of the governor, and how the project had changed in scope compared to when G.E.C. was originally contracted under the de Jongh administration to build the stadium. “It is truly a remarkable difference between what was originally contracted and what is going to be built,” Mr. Wessel said. He revealed that the designs that were on display were not simply pretty pictures, “These pictures are the results of two years of hard design work,” he said. Mr. Wessel said the stadium was designed by the company that designed the new ballpark for the New York Yankees, the Populous design group.

The project will most likely be completed beyond Mr. Mapp’s first term in office. Mr. Wessel said his company will work with the Department of Labor to ensure that abled locals receive employment.

G.E.C., Mr. Wessel also made known, was founded 50 years ago in the territory, and has worked exclusive within the islands. “Our motto, and we plan to keep it with this project, is ‘building the Virgin Islands with Virgin Islanders,’” he concluded.

Harvey Sasso, president of Coastal Systems Development, Inc., spoke of how the project came together after officials had listened to the Frederiksted community’s desires. The end result of the first phase is the beauty that is the Frederiksted waterfront today, which includes the Verne Richards Veterans Park, Strand Street, the waterfront parks, the Eliza James-McBean Clock Tower, and the Ann E. Abramson Pier.

The stadium represents phase two of the revitalization effort. Mr. Mapp expressed confidence in the final design after over two years of delay, stating that the project was more than a stadium, representing a far broader vision for the west town. “We’re not trying to build a stadium, we’re trying to revitalize, from an economic perspective, the town of Frederiskted and the island of St. Croix,” he said. Mr. Mapp said the stadium, once done, will serve not only as an attraction for tourists (he expects sports tourism to takeoff in a big way way, and said that multiple U.S. college sports organizations that are part of the NCAA have expressed strong interest in visiting the territory for training), but also for residents of the territory, whose families are raised here.

The stadium will cost just over $20 million, as the Senate recently approved an additional $480,000. Mr. Mapp spoke of an additional $7 million for another extension, telling senators at yesterday’s event that he knew where the funds would come from.

St. Croix News: New Horseracing Track & Casino planned for USVI

Racetrack

Taken from:  http://viconsortium.com/business/mapp-announces-plan-partnership-transform-horse-racing-industry-usvi/
Governor Mapp has announced a partnership with VIGL Operations LLC, a Virgin Islands firm and operator of the Caravelle Hotel and Casino in Christiansted.  VIGL’s parent company plans, designs, and operates casinos and other entertainment venues in Illinois and Louisiana. VIGL has enlisted a team of highly credentialed and experienced horse racing and betting experts to ensure that race tracks in St Thomas and St Croix are renovated and operated to meet the highest standards of the racing industry, which will purportedly add revenue into the territory’s coffers through taxes and such.

The plan, the Governor said, aims to unify both islands’ horse racing communities, including combining the horse racing commission into one, with four members from St. Croix, four from the St. Thomas – St. John district, and the ninth member being the commissioner of Sports, Parks and Recreation. Commission members would be selected by the Governor.

The new unified commission comes as part of Mapp’s proposed legislation that would amend the Horse Racing Assistance Act of 2010 to give the industry more economic value, and make it “a source of pride to the people and to the government.” The bill would also increase casino fees from 19 1/4 to 25 percent, which would be paid into a separate fund dubbed the “Horse Racetrack Casino Fund”.

The Deal 

The agreement sees VIGL leasing both racetracks for a period of 20 years.  It requires a large upfront investment of not less than $27 million, of which $14 million will be used to rebuild the St. Croix facility, and $12 million for the St. Thomas race track. While VIGL will be responsible for purchasing an additional 12 acres of land (costing $2 million) in St. Thomas, the government, once the lease is up, retains the property. Another $1 million will be held in a reserve fund.

Taxes, Fees and Payments

VIGL must pay full taxes and all permits and other fees. VIGL is also obligated to pay statutory casino fees, which will be increased under the amended legislation that Mr. Mapp will present to the 31st Legislature.

VIGL must also make a variety of payments for the duration of its 20-year lease, to include an annual license fee of $20,000, franchise fees that begin at $10,000 for the first three years and increase to $25,000 for the fifth and sixth years, and to $50,000 annually thereafter. The firm will also pay maintenance fees of 4 percent of annual racing gross revenues, and under separate lease agreements, rents of $108,000 annually for the St. Croix race track, and $24,000 annual for the St. Thomas race track.

Racing and Purse Requirements

For the first three years, VIGL must host a minimum of 18 live races, and a minimum of a combined 24 live races thereafter between the St. Thomas and St. Croix facilities. The purse for each race day at each track will be at least $100,000, making for a combined minimum of $200,000 each race day, which totals to a minimum of $2 million annually for years 1-3; $2.5 million annually for years 4-6; and $3 million annually thereafter. Additionally, whenever the purse exceeds the minimum amount, VIGL must increase the following year’s purse by the excess. For example, the minimum purse amount for years 1-3 is $2 million. If the purse reaches $2.6 million, the following year’s purse must be increased by $600,000.

Charitable Donations

VIGL must make three $1,000 donations for the first three years on each race day to select charitable organizations; an annual total of $54,000. The total increases to $74,000 in the fourth year. Thereafter, the minimum charitable donations will rise by 10 percent, and will be capped at $150,000 annually.

Termination of Traxco Lease

Traxco, currently enthralled in litigation with the government, has arrived to an agreement with the government and VIGL, which will see Traxco renouncing any claim to operate the St. Croix racetrack, in exchange for the right, through its parent company Treasure Bay VI Corp., to operate a racing on the St. Croix premises until VIGL executes its agreement with the government. The agreement also sees a reduction in Traxco’s gross receipt taxes from 12 percent to 8 percent, and Traxco will receive what the agreement describes as “certain payments” from VIGL.