Community Alliance
To Preserve our
Historic Neighborhoods

Preserving Our History....

   

 














 

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What’s this all about?

This is a broad, community-based effort to urge the legislature to pass
 
The Antiquities Preservation and Historic Properties Act #29-0358 that would spark the rehabilitation and restoration of a number of hurricane-damaged, abandoned and deteriorating historic homes in Christiansted, Fredericksted and Charlotte Amalie.

Who is the “Community Alliance to Preserve Our Historic Neighborhoods”?

A coalition of a wide range of community groups and interests -- civic organizations, churches and synagogues, neighborhood groups, trade associations, interested citizens, historic preservation groups – anyone who shares our goal of seeing these historic properties, and our heritage, preserved and restored.

What can I do?

  • Help us show our legislators the overwhelming public support that exists for preserving our historic neighborhoods.  Drop them an e-mail (and copy us!) or give them a call.
  • Next, if you’re a member of a group that wants to throw its support behind this effort, please let us know and email us at preservevi@gmail.com .  All are welcome .  It costs nothing to be part of the Alliance and you will not be asked to give anything but your support!  We’d also ask that your group adopt and sign our Statement of Support or sign the petition.
  • Be sure to go to our Face Book page and “Like” us. - Community Alliance to Preserve our Historic Neighborhoods.

What’s the urgency?

These are some of the earliest structures in the island, and they’re steadily are crumbling away – and with them a huge and important part of our islands history and heritage. 

Some date back to the 1700’s, designed by the Danes and crafted by local artisans, masons and carpenters, the ancestors of many VI citizens.  Sadly, once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.  We can’t let that happen.

What would the bill do?

First and foremost, it would provide the framework through which the revitalization and rehabilitation can be fostered and encouraged.  A position would be created for an advocate who would actively work on plans and programs to preserving and restore these properties.

Owners of these properties would be required to restore or rehabilitate them – which would generate desperately needed jobs and tax revenues.  It would encourage public-private partnerships and investment by those who see the potential for these homes to once again become community assets and a source of pride. 

While well intended, current historic preservation ordinances are very stringent – to the point that they have discouraged current owners and prospective investors from attempting rehabilitation since the cost of compliance does not provide any opportunity to recapture their investment.  The bill seeks a better balance and creates more options for redevelopment of these blighted areas.

What’s the impact of these homes on the community?

Unfortunately, right now it’s all negative. 

  • They are immediately adjacent to the thriving commercial and tourist areas and constitute a definite threat to overall public safety.
  • Besides being unsightly, they now have become havens for crime, drugs, trash, vermin and squalor.
  • Adjacent neighborhoods are seeing a rise in crime and a threat to their property values.   
  • They are so dilapidated they produce little tax revenue.  Many are now taxed as vacant land – pennies compared to what they should be.
  • They consume a disproportionate share of police and other governmental resources.
  • Those taken over by the government produce no taxes at all, but constitute a very real legal liability for their “owners” – the taxpayers of the Virgin Islands.

What’s the potential for these areas?

Urban planners and other experts agree that these historic homes could be put to a number of valuable uses in addition to providing family housing.  Some are large enough to be converted to things like bed & breakfasts, small professional offices, multi-family and group homes or small community retail businesses – and the jobs that go with them!

What’s the Alliance doing?

This is very much a grassroots effort.  Over the coming weeks, representatives from the various Alliance groups will be appearing on radio and TV and doing newspaper interviews to raise awareness of the legislation and the urgent need for action.

The bill’s first major hurdle will be a public hearing by the legislature’s Rules Committee on Wednesday, August 1st.  We hope to see a number of groups, neighboring residents and concerned citizens testify as to its importance.

In addition, a professional study by a locally owned urban planning and architectural consulting firm been commissioned to identify, research, photograph and document the condition of each of these properties, including their ownership and current taxes.  The results will be available in early June. 

Our Key Messages:

The most compelling arguments for passage of this legislation are:

  • Threat to Public Safety.  These crumbling and uninhabitable properties have become havens for drug users, squatters and the homeless – with the attendant and predictable rise in crime, drug use, disease and squalor.  As such they constitute a serious threat to public safety, especially for those productive, law-abiding citizens living in adjacent neighborhoods.  These derelict properties also lower the value and attractiveness of their homes and adversely affect their overall quality of life.

  • Loss of Tax Revenue: Those properties currently owned by the VI government are contributing nothing to the tax rolls at a time when the government is facing major fiscal challenges. Meanwhile, those still privately owned are being taxed as “vacant land” since they are uninhabitable. 

The proposed legislation has a compliance feature that would allow penalties for failure to preserve these historic properties. With penalties set at the proper level, the cost of enforcing compliance would be self-funding. 

  • Legal Liability & Risk Management:  These decaying properties represent a significant potential legal liability to both the absentee owners and the Virgin Islands government.  Therefore, it would seem altogether prudent for the government to divest itself of these ticking time bombs by adopting measures that would put them back on the tax tolls.   

  • Lost Opportunity for Community & Historic Preservation.  Some of these properties are the earliest homes ever built in the Virgin Islands.  Once gone, they will be gone forever – and with them a major and irretrievable part of the heritage, history and unique architectural flavor of the Virgin Islands. The legislation provides the opportunity for creativity and entrepreneurship in sparking their preservation, including options such as public-private partnerships.

  • Jobs:  Rehabilitating and restoring these properties will require work by engineers, architects, designer, contractors and skilled tradesmen.  The actual restoration would generate sales of not only construction materials, but other “ripple” or spin-off economic activity in such areas as transportation, trucking, office supplies, utilities, food and restaurant sales and so forth.  Economists generally agree that each dollar in wages cycles through the economy between four and six times.
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