With cake and cheers the Government and the BVI Ports Authority celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of Tortola Pier Park.
The facility which opened on 16 February 2016 reached the one year milestone on Friday. In regards to the anniversary The Island Sun newspaper interviewed Minister for Communications and Works Hon. Mark Vanterpool, who proudly declared that the facility is living up to expectations.
On Tuesday, Hon. Vanterpool mentioned that project partners gathered at the facility for a soft celebration: “We celebrated it today, well what we did today was a sort of a soft celebration, because we had the two main ships that are in agreement with us today and we took the opportunity while they were here to have the celebration, and invite them to join in the cake and champagne,” the Minister said.
The Minister who spoke on the significance of the facility downplayed previous announcements that the Pier Park did not earn the revenues that were projected in the 2014 investment prospectus.
The revenue shortfall, Hon. Vanterpool said, was attributed to the fact that all of the projected space from which rent revenue was to be derived were not occupied: “We are almost completely rented and collecting revenue. There will always be instances of slow payment but we have been meeting expectations except for one project which we haven’t completed which is building five which we are in the process of continuing negotiations in terms of discussions on that and how we expect it to be developed,” he explained.
As it relates to building five, the Minister further disclosed that discussions are ongoing relating to the development of that area: “We might change the way we are going to develop it. However, Minister Vanterpool indicated that he did not wish to elaborate on the discussions.
Meanwhile, the management of the Tortola Pier Park is optimistic that this season which began in October last year and ends in May will present great opportunities for the facility’s vendors as some 553,962 passengers are expected to visit in addition to 11 new ship calls that are also scheduled.
The Tortola Pier Park consists of a 60ft wide, 1,312ft long pier that can berth ships up to a maximum tonnage of 180,000 GRT. The landside shopping center consist of over 60 stores, including retail, service providers, commercial spaces. However it noted that the only 47 stores are currently operational at the facility. Nonetheless, management has expectations that a few more stores will be opened by the end of the year.
Revenue Shortcomings…and what about Crafts Alive?
Last November Minister Vanterpool disclosed in the House of Assembly that numerous factors prevented the Pier Park from earning the revenues that were projected in the 2014 investment prospectus.
The Minister’s comment was in response to a question from Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Julian Fraser about the Pier Park earnings. In his question, Hon. Fraser asked the Minister whether the Pier Park is behind in its projected revenues, since the projections according to the Investment Prospectus of 2014 boasted revenues of $2,219,924 for 2016.
“So far, after eight months into 2016 less than half (939,244.43) has been collected, representing a shortfall of $1,280,679.57 to be made up in four months,” Hon. Fraser asked.
In response, Hon Vanterpool explained that based on the current leases the total expected income for 2016 would be $1,455,497.75, For 2017, he said that the projections are also based on lease agreements, and are expected to be $2,256,905.72.
Some pessimistic shopkeepers at Crafts Alive are lamenting that the Pier Park is absorbing whatever business the “budget oriented” visitors spend in the BVI.