Published On: Mon, Nov 21st, 2022

A vision plan for Quarter Development? Where have we heard that before?

PHILIPSBURG – The Council of Ministers recently approved a “vision plan” for the development of what is now called the Quarter Development, situated next to the A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facility.

Minister of TEATT Announces Vision for Waterpark and Boutique Hotel Development Near Port St. Maarten

More than seven years ago, on March 26, 2015, the same Council of Ministers approved the master plan for what was then called the St. Maarten Quarter, a $120 million mixed-use waterfront development at the same location by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. That plan never became a reality and there have even been earlier plans going nowhere, dating back to 2007.

In 2015, Royal Caribbean announced the St. Maarten Quarter project a week before the Council of Ministers gave the green light, during the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference in Miami on March 17, 2015 in the presence of Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Claret Connor.

The driving forces behind that project were ambitious. At Seatrade they brazenly announced that construction could begin in the fourth quarter of that year and that the project would be ready for the 2017-2018 winter season.

John Tercek, Vice President commercial development of Royal Caribbean boasted that St. Maarten Quarter would introduce “world-class brands” in the fields of retail, hospitality, dining, entertainment and attractions. “This will strengthen the position of St. Maarten as a leading destination in the region,” Tercek said.

Local decision makers must have been dazzled by the prospective of 250 jobs during construction and 400 jobs after completion.

Financing Quarter Development unclear

The recently approved “vision plan” for the Quarter Development describes the project as the largest water park in the Caribbean in combination with a boutique hotel that will feature conference facilities. Estimated costs: $100 million. Time to completion: 18 months.

Reports about the approval for this plan mention 600 construction jobs and 500 jobs after completion. It is unclear who will finance this development.

The first plans for developments near the cruise terminal are more than fifteen years old. This appears from a petition real estate developer Zebec submitted to the court. The petition quotes a statement made by Royal Caribbean’s John Tercek.

Tercek told his interrogators on June 3, 2015 that the first negotiations about the development date back to 2007 or 2008. “The original plan was to have “sort of a park with water features and incidental retail and food and beverage,” Tercek stated. In the meantime he is no longer associated with Royal Caribbean because of “irregularities.”

Already on March 29, 2008, Zebec made an agreement with St. Maarten Ports Development and SMQDC, the St. Maarten Dutch Quarter Development Company, a daughter of Royal Caribbean. The agreement was for a project on terrain that belonged to SMQDC and it therefore required the approval from this company.

On September 20, 2010, Zebec signed a memorandum of understanding with St. Maarten Harbor Cruise Facilities (SMH Cruise). The project at the time was based on a designed by KERN Architects for a shopping center of 3,300 square meters with sixteen stores. Named Dutch Village, the project would include a windmill, a museum and a restaurant.

The memorandum contained conditions: it required approval from several parties, among them the Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines. SMH Cruise signed on for making efforts to obtain these approvals.

On September 15, 2011, Zebec received a letter from Royal Caribbean’s John Tercek saying that the development exceeded the size limitations from the development agreement and that he therefore withheld approval.

But something was not quite right, Zebec was about to discover. The position of SMQDC was that it would only approve the project if the commercial activities remained limited to 10,000 square feet (929 square meters).

After the cooperation with Zebec was torpedoed, Ocean Drive Properties took over. According to the Zebec-petition ODP planned to develop a purely commercial project with two barnlike buildings exclusively for retail and well over the size limitation of 10,000 square feet.

Zebec has in the meantime initiated litigation against SMQDC, ODP, Theo Heyliger, Danny Ramchandani and Peter Mirpuri (the involvement of these three gentlemen is a whole other story). Zebec demands close to $100 million in damages from these parties.