On October 10, 2017, Josh, Mike and the resort’s architect, Joe Sistler, flew to St. Maarten on the first commercial flight to Princess Juliana International Airport. The terminal had been heavily damaged during the storm. Arrivals and departures were conducted under large tents on both sides of the airport building. It was well set up with the capacity to handle much more traffic than was present when we arrived. Reports are that the airport will be fully restored in nine months. Currently, Delta and American have reestablished daily service to St. Maarten. Also, Jet Blue is offering flights directly from New York twice a week. Islanders had organized an impromptu welcome with drinks and costumed Carnival dancers for passengers passing through the temporary facility. The Island is progressing and hungry for visitors.
The ride from the airport to the resort showed the destructive effects of Irma. However, there was a great deal of activity. People were repairing their houses and roofs, government and private contractors were clearing the roads, debris from the storm was neatly deposited in dump areas to be removed to a larger dump each evening by government contractors. Stores were starting to open in Phillipsburg and Simpson Bay. Banks were open and ATM machines were functional. Several restaurants have reopened and many more are preparing to open, including our own Infinity Restaurant. The first cruise ship is expected on November 11 with store owners and other businesses anxiously awaiting their arrival There is an overall urgency in St. Maarten and among its citizens to get back to being a great Caribbean vacation destination. Restoring St. Maarten to its pre-hurricane luster is everyone’s primary goal.
The resort was physically inspected by our on-site management staff along with, Josh, Mike, and Joe. We toured the property with insurance adjusters, contractors, and architects as each unit was entered and assessed. Personal inspection allowed the team to more clearly formulate a plan for opening the resort as soon as possible. It was decided that the best way to approach the reconstruction was to divide the work into phases as some resort areas were spared the full destructiveness of the storm while other areas need a more prolonged reconstruction effort.
Phase I of the reconstruction will consist of the infinity swimming pool, the reception and Mainsail buildings, the Marina buildings (15 through 18) and the poolside buildings (31 and 32). Phase II will include the oceanfront buildings (20 through 30). Phase III will consist of the garden view buildings (33 through 41).
We are working with architects and contractors for bids so we can more accurately determine the cost to repair the entire resort. While some prices are being received now, all of the prices probably won’t be available for several weeks.
The work to repair the roof of the administrative/check in building is already underway. It is the first order of business, so we will be able to reopen Infinity Restaurant on November 1.
Plan for the Future: Phase 1 – Opening June 2018
An important factor in planning for the future is dealing with the insurance companies. We are preparing a claim based on our initial assessment of damage. The insurance company adjusters, who must agree on the amount of the claim, have visited the property and met with the management team. We will mutually determine the amount of the claim. Until we complete the entire bidding process on the reconstruction and refurbishment we will not be able to determine the budget or the exact amount of the claim. We hope to have a better projection in the next several weeks as we are expecting to receive bids from several contractors.
We are pushing the insurance company to provide an interim advance under the claim to pay for the Phase I reconstruction work as we have obtained favorable bids from contractors for its completion. In anticipation of receiving these advances, we have released the work to these contractors and have commenced construction of Phase I. We anticipate Phase I to be completed and open for occupancy by June as a boutique resort to allow the owners to once again enjoy the best of the resort. During the construction of Phase I, we also hope to have phase II and III under construction. Because of the separation of the buildings in the phases, we don’t expect the work on phase II or III to impact the enjoyment of our boutique resort. We hope to get phase II and III complete by October 2018. The timelines are subject to change as our schedule is dependent on the availability of labor, material, and equipment. There is exceptional pressure on all three right now. However, we do have a contractor under contract and working in order to get phase I open in June. More details will be forthcoming as we receive bids for phase II and III and work with the insurance company for a timely payout.
Infinity Restaurant and Bar
The Infinity Restaurant and Bar, which sustained very little damage (except for roof repairs), will be ready for the public in November as the contractor finishes the roof repair and touch-ups to the restaurant and bar which started this week. We have scheduled an opening on November 1, 2017. While there are several restaurants open on St. Maarten, Infinity will be one of the first fine dining resort restaurants, on the ocean, to be open. We expect it to be popular with the locals, especially from the Oyster Pond district that surrounds our resort. We also feel an early opening will help boost the morale of the Island as well offer full employment to our employees in our food and beverage department.
GoFundMe fundraising effort
The GFM page raised a total of $165,491. In addition, $12,500 was received from two private donors who gave directly, for a total of funds raised of $177,991. After GFM expenses of $13,723, the amount distributed to 151 employees was $164,723. The money was distributed on a needs basis determined by the on-island management staff. Some employees who were hardest hit received up to $5,000 to help reconstruct their destroyed homes. All employees received some amount of money in order to help them bring back their lives and property. The employees were very grateful and will put the money to work immediately. We were all very gratified by the success of the GFM effort as well as moved by the sentiments expressed by our owners and others on the GFM site. More detail is available on the GFM site which will stay up for about two weeks so everyone involved can review the results as well as the comments and kind wishes. Click the button below to visit the GFM site. A second GFM was also established by a grateful Colorado couple who spent the night of Irma with us. They raised an additional $14,500 which was also distributed to the employees.
The reservations department has been reestablished on Island and is taking most of the calls from Owners. They report that many owners want to bank their week with OBBR to be used in the future when the resort reopens. Many owners have opted to vacation elsewhere and are seamlessly exchanging their weeks through Interval International to any comparable resort in the world. As we get closer to completing phase I, we will open reservations for those units. We would hope to be able to give three months’ notice for reservations. However, that still needs to be confirmed. Our only goal is to reopen the restored resort and serve our owners and employees.
We thank the ownership who are continuing to support our resort. We have confidence that your patience and support will pay off with the restoration of the great vacation destination that is Oyster Bay Beach Resort.