Published On: Tue, Nov 14th, 2017

Front Street comes back to life – but it is not there yet

Nick Maley 20171113 - HH

PHILIPSBURG – One of the more forward thinking entrepreneurs on Front Street is Nick Maley, the iconic artist who stood at the basis of the Yoda character in the Star Wars movies. Maley’s Star Wars museum survived the onslaught of Hurricane Irma but he nevertheless spent time, energy and money on a serious upgrade of his storefront, as the picture with this article shows.
Front Street starts coming back to life but it is still far from being where it has to go. The main concern of the entrepreneurs on the main shopping street in Philipsburg is when, and with which volume, cruise lines will return to the destination. Another concern has to do with shop fronts that are basically left in a shambles, because their owners do not want to spend money on making the place look good again.

One cruise ship

Maley is concerned about the upcoming season. “This season may be lost altogether,” he says. “It is not even certain whether cruise ships will be back on December 17. And yes, one cruise ship will arrive on December 4, but that carries only 900 passengers. Is that the solution?”

Maley is also concerned about what tourists will see on Front Street once they do arrive. Hence his efforts to make his own place look in top shape.
Across the road, two stores are open for business, but the one next to it is not. This store has been crudely closed off with zinc roof plates.
Maley points at it with dismay. “The owner does not want to spend any money on it,” he says. “But this is what tourists will see and what they will remember.”

No contractor in sight

Another concern – not visible from the location of the Star Wars museum, is the attempt to upgrade the street. Near the courthouse, part of the pavement has been removed from Front Street and the idea of the now outgoing Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher, was to put something better in place before the start of the tourist season.

That decision has been criticized as ill-timed, because the country has other priorities, like fixing the roofs of people’s homes. On Tuesday it seemed that the project has been abandoned before it really started, because there was no contractor in sight to fix the street.

Cruise lines

As far as the cruise lines are concerned, Royal Caribbean is set to return to St. Maarten with the Grandeur of the Seas on December 17. The vessel has a maximum passenger capacity of 1,.950. On its web site, the cruise line offers the following perspective: “On our return to St. Maarten guests will find the majority of downtown Philipsburg shopping and cafes open, as well as Philipsburg based tours such as the Old Trolley Train and the Open Top Double Decker Bus Tour. Kimsha Beach is also ready to welcome guests and there are boats and catamarans available to enjoy the Caribbean Sea.”

Carnival Cruises will not return to St. Maarten before the end of the year and it keeps its options open for 2018. MSC cruises has not announced any port calls for December and January either.

The luxury Viking Sea, built in 2015 for Viking Oceans will dock at the port in Philipsburg on December 4. It carries a maximum of 930 passengers.