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New Era in U.S. Virgin Islands: Hampton by Hilton Initiates Construction in St. Thomas After 30-year Hotel Hiatus



HAVENSIGHT, ST. THOMAS — A milestone was marked on Friday afternoon as the first sod was turned for the upcoming Hampton by Hilton hotel, heralding the first new hotel project in the U.S. Virgin Islands in three decades. Located in the heart of Havensight, St. Thomas, the hotel is slated for a grand opening in the first quarter of 2025.

Local dignitaries and stakeholders gathered to commemorate the groundbreaking event, underscoring its potential to catalyze a fresh wave of hotel industry growth within the territory. The ceremony was graced by notable figures including Governor Albert Bryan, V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe, GERS CEO Angel Dawson, EDA CEO Wayne Biggs, and a host of Senate leaders.

With 126 rooms on offer, the Hampton by Hilton St. Thomas aims to cater primarily to the business demographic, providing a cost-effective stay option for transient professionals like pilots. Additionally, it is anticipated to stimulate local businesses in Havensight, especially eateries, as the hotel will provide only breakfast, fostering partnerships with nearby restaurants for other meal deliveries. An in-room tablet service will facilitate guests in ordering food or merchandise for either delivery or pick-up, and also enable pre-booking at local dining establishments.

The venture is spearheaded by Haven Developments in collaboration with Hilton. Pablo Maturana, Vice President of Development for the Caribbean and Latin America at Hilton Hotels and Resorts, expressed delight over the initiative, underscoring the significance of this project among over a hundred others presently underway. He extolled the reinstatement of the Hilton brand in the region, recognizing the warm reception from the St. Thomas community.

Haven Development Founder, Shaun Miller, articulated his enthusiasm about welcoming guests to the Hampton by Hilton come 2025, emphasizing the community-centric aspect of the project with an adjoining green space poised to enhance the allure of Havensight Mall.

The five-story establishment, sprawling over 70,586 square feet on a 1.62-acre plot, marks the return of the Hilton brand to the island, bringing along its reputable name and customer loyalty. The blueprint features a pool, bar, kitchen, and meeting space, while a neighboring 2.662-acre plot is earmarked for a welcome center, verdant area, and parking facility, as per a release from Haven Development.

Governor Bryan, reflecting on the significant venture, the first of its kind in 30 years, reiterated the ongoing growth narrative during his term. He referenced several other hotel projects, all reincarnation efforts, that are either operational or on the cusp of launching. His sentiments resonated with Mr. Dowe, the VIPA executive director, who emphasized the urgency of advancing such initiatives in the U.S. Virgin Islands, underscoring the collaborative ethos needed to surmount the inherent challenges.

Senator Francis joined the chorus of praise for the initiative, projecting new employment opportunities and economic augmentation as direct offshoots of the hotel project.

The land, owned by GERS, amplifies the pension system’s strategy to pursue partnerships enhancing its financial trajectory, as shared by CEO Mr. Dawson.

EDA CEO, Mr. Biggs, lauded Mr. Miller’s entrepreneurial endeavors within the EDA framework, singling out the award-winning Standard Aviation as a paragon of excellence.

Similarly, Senator Frett-Gregory celebrated Mr. Miller’s investment acumen and his unwavering faith in the USVI’s potential, encapsulating the collective appreciation and optimism resonating among the attendees.

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VI Electron and Honeywell Forge New Path in Energy Storage for USVI Solar Initiatives



In a significant step forward for renewable energy in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Honeywell announced its collaboration with VI Electron on Tuesday. This partnership marks the beginning of an ambitious plan to implement the first of several advanced battery energy storage solutions (BESS) in up to six strategically placed solar parks across the territory.

The role of battery storage in these municipal solar projects cannot be overstated. It’s a game-changer, enabling the storage of excess energy produced during peak times. This not only guarantees a stable power supply but also enhances the overall efficiency of the power grid.

Honeywell’s inaugural BESS for VI Electron boasts an impressive 124 MW capacity. It features a comprehensive battery management system that promises advanced energy controls and an integrated safety system. This state-of-the-art system is a key to smarter energy management, allowing for precise forecasting and optimization of energy usage, thereby paving the way for a more cost-effective and efficient energy grid.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has expressed enthusiastic support for this initiative. He recognizes the alignment of Honeywell’s battery storage expertise with the territory’s vision for a greener future. Governor Bryan highlighted the significance of the VI Electron and Honeywell partnership as a catalyst in achieving the territory’s ambitious renewable energy target, aiming for at least 30 percent of energy consumption to be sourced from renewable methods.

Earlier in the year, the V.I. Water and Power Authority board greenlit power purchase agreements with VI Electron for solar energy provision and with Advance Power for the development of wind energy solutions. This move is a cornerstone in diversifying the territory’s energy sources.

The integration of renewable energy into the USVI’s energy portfolio is expected to bring about a substantial decrease in consumer energy costs. This is primarily attributed to a marked reduction in the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC). WAPA CEO Andrew Smith shared his optimistic outlook with board members in April, foreseeing a significant reduction in fuel costs for the territory.

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“Jump-Up!” Celebration Hindered by Christiansted’s Deteriorating Roads: Attendee Injured, Local Businesses Affected



The festive atmosphere of the “Jump-Up!” event in Christiansted was overshadowed by poor road conditions, impacting both vendors and attendees. Laurie Hirons, owner of Gecko Boutique, described to WTJX how vendors struggled with inadequate setup spaces, with some opting not to participate. “Setting up tents in what seemed like gutters was a challenge for many,” Hirons recounted.

Matt Ridgeway, chair of the Christiansted Retail & Restaurant Association, reported a distressing incident where an individual sustained arm injuries due to the hazardous roadways. Ridgeway expressed his concern, saying, “It’s troubling that our environment isn’t safer for everyone, locals and visitors alike.”

According to Ridgeway, the event saw a notable decrease in sales, attributing this to reduced pedestrian traffic. He observed a general reluctance among people to visit Christiansted under the current conditions.

Both Hirons and Ridgeway voiced their frustration over unfulfilled promises. Despite assurances from road contractor Marco St. Croix following a stakeholders’ meeting, the much-needed road repairs remain pending. Hirons expressed her disappointment to WTJX, stating, “Promises were made, yet we see no improvements.”

Ridgeway extended his concerns beyond the roads, highlighting broader issues affecting the Virgin Islands, such as environmental challenges and infrastructure needs. “Our focus shouldn’t be solely on tourist comfort but also on the wellbeing of St. Croix residents and all Virgin Islanders,” he remarked.

Emphasizing the urgency of addressing these issues, Ridgeway called for unity and accountability within the community. He stressed the importance of seizing current funding opportunities for recovery projects to build a better future for the territory. “We owe it to our children to make the most of this chance,” he asserted.

Ridgeway informed WTJX of an upcoming meeting with Waste Management Authority officials to discuss the long-standing issue of Christiansted’s road paving project, a source of frustration for residents and businesses for several years.

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S&P Global Foresees Potential Default for Ocean Point Terminals Amid Debt Concerns



S&P Global Ratings, a prominent credit rating agency, recently adjusted the debt rating of Limetree Bay Terminals LLC (now operating as Ocean Point Terminals in the USVI) to a lower level, signaling growing concerns over the company’s financial stability.

The downgrade, announced on November 17, shifted the company’s rating from CCC to CCC-, with a negative outlook. This change occurs as Ocean Point Terminals approaches the February 15, 2024, deadline to address its significant outstanding debt totaling approximately $476 million.

S&P Global Ratings expressed a stark assessment, stating that it anticipates Ocean Point Terminals will “likely default” or be compelled to negotiate a distressed exchange in the coming three months to manage its considerable debt. The agency did note, however, that this scenario could be avoided with a substantial increase in contracted business or an infusion of equity, though it deemed such developments unlikely.

Despite recent contract gains, S&P Global Ratings remains skeptical about the company’s ability to repay its loans through operational cash flows alone. The agency further noted that the current economic environment presents additional challenges to the company’s financial recovery.

The agency emphasized the high rates and unsustainable capital structure in the near term, pointing out the insufficiency of current and anticipated contracts to significantly alter the company’s financial course. As the February 15 maturity date for the debt nears, the likelihood of a distressed exchange — where a company negotiates with creditors to restructure its debt under more favorable terms — increases, influencing the negative outlook from S&P Global Ratings.

A distressed exchange could involve various restructuring strategies, including offering creditors equity in the company based on debt value or substituting existing debt with new, more favorable terms.

In the event of a distressed exchange or failure to meet interest or amortization payments, Ocean Point Terminals’ debt rating could face further downgrades. However, securing longer-term contracts that generate sufficient cash flow to cover debt service could lead to a revision of the company’s outlook to “stable,” as per S&P Global Ratings.

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