Published On: Sun, Jul 23rd, 2023

Mary’s Fancy-development on hold due to unfavorable conditions

PHILIPSBURG — General Pension Fund APS acquired Mary’s Fancy and the De Castro properties on L.B. Scott Road in 2014 for 4.4 million guilders ($2,458,000) with the intention to develop them for commercial use. Unfortunately, the conditions for further development soon worsened to a point where APS had to put the project on hold. According to the 2020 annual report the original projection was to complete the project by the third quarter of 2022.

Renovating the monuments at Mary’s Fancy are part of the project. APS intended (and still intends) to renovate the plantation house, the boiling house, the servants quarters and the well and to construct a small boutique hotel. The plantation house was however destroyed by fire in March 2023.

The pension fund hired a restoration architect for advice about the design process for the restoration of the monuments. It also started a search for an operating company that would be charged with the management of the hotel and restaurant and that would be willing to financially commit to the development. So far, that company has not been found.

Two disasters brought the plans to a screeching halt. First there was the devastating Hurricane Irma in September 2017 with all of its consequences and then the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed not only the world but also St. Maarten. The material damages caused by the hurricane were limited to debris and fallen trees, but there were other consequences. The global increase in prices for materials and transport as well as supply chain issues limited the development of real estate projects. APS also did not manage to find a suitable operating company for the management of the property.

To make matters worse, APS is still waiting for a building permit after filing a request for it more than two years ago, on January 18, 2021. In the third quarter of 2019, APS already received a monument permit from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports.

After purchasing the properties, APS began with restoring the monuments and with the demolition of cottages in the De Castro property. The demolition of non-historical structures was completed by the end of 2020. These activities and the cost for development plans and permits amount to 3.7 million guilders (a bit over $2 million). This amount has been added to the book value of the properties which currently stands at 8.1 million guilders ($4,525,000) in the APS-administration. Because of the issues that hamper the project, APS is currently unable to estimate how much the development is going to cost.

“APS finds it prudent to hold off investing in developments that would not be in the interest of the fund, its participants and the tourism sector of St. Maarten,” the pension fund said in a statement. “APS is working diligently to monitor and create opportunities so it can realize its plans responsibly and profitably when the time is right.”