3 new hotels, 1st casino in pipeline for Vieques

Written by  //  June 13, 2011  //  Tourism/Transportation  //  11 Comments

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Vieques is ripe for hotel development, which the Tourism Company says should be eco-friendly (Credit: Wikipedia)

Three new hotels — including the first to incorporate a casino — are in the works for the island municipality of Vieques, representing a total investment of $55.1 million and the possibility of adding some 200 new rooms, News is my Business has learned.

José Juan Terrasa, the Tourism Company’s director of development and planning, confirmed that the Vista Linda Casitas, the Island Grove and the Le Grand Cofi Paradise — with associated investments of $600,000, $16.5 million and $38 million, respectively — have secured construction permits and are working on financing.

The biggest of the three proposed hotels, the $38 million, 150-room Le Grand Cofi Paradise, would be located on a five-acre plot on the island’s Florida sector, and would include the casino. Once operational, the hotel would be the island’s second-largest property behind the W Resort and would create 150 jobs, Tourism Company data shows.

“That hotel already has the approval from the Planning Board and it is now before the consideration of the Tourism Company’s gaming division, which needs to approve the casino,” Terrasa said. “The Tourism Company is open to having a hotel with a casino in Vieques, although it’s not what we would prefer.”

This is so because the development plans for Vieques call for including eco-friendly elements to preserve the pristine conditions of most of the island’s natural resources, including white-sand beaches and dry forests.

“Visitor activity in Vieques has been focused on ecotourism and nature tourism, and what the Tourism Company wants to achieve is the approval of hotels that offer superior service while taking advantage of the island’s natural resources,” he said.

The two other properties, while not identified as “eco-friendly,” also promise to generate economic activity for the island municipality that as of March had an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent.

The proposed $16.5 million Island Grove project is a condo-hotel complex planned for a 12-acre parcel at the Puerto Real sector, that calls for developing 18 buildings comprising 50 rooms. Ten of those buildings would be residential villas, while the rest would be dedicated to a restaurant and lounge, administrative offices, and other services. A pool and parking facilities are also part of the blueprint, according to Tourism Company data.

Rounding out the trio of proposed projects, and the one likely to be erected first, is the Vista Linda Casitas property. The 12-room hotel to be located at Vieques’ Pilón sector also includes several terraces, a pool and parking.

“That facility has already been approved by the Permits and Regulations Administration and is awating to secure financing, which could come through the Economic Development Bank,” said Terrasa.

Priming Vieques for cruise ships
The Tourism Company, in conjunction with the Economic Development and Commerce Department, are working on an economic development plan for Puerto Rico’s two island municipalities, Vieques and Culebra, begun in 2004.

Puerto Mosquito, in brown, is ideal for small cruise ships to anchor in Vieques. (Credit: Wikipedia)

“Just as it was under the previous administration, this one is also foreseeing that the economic development of both islands should be sustainable and preferably, eco-friendly,” said Terrasa. “That doesn’t mean that every development must necessarily fit into that definition of ecotourism, but they should all incorporate sustainable trends.”

Along with approving new hotel facilities, the central government agencies are working with Vieques authorities to develop the necessary infrastructure to welcome and provide service to a greater volume of tourists. That includes establishing taxi and tourist guide facilities at several key points over the next year.

“One of the initiatives that we’re exploring is the possibility of attracting small cruise ships to Vieques, and for that we have identified the Mosquito Pier as the site where ships carrying 200 to 300 passengers could anchor,” he said. “It would require a relatively low investment to get that facility ready for that.”

Vieques and Culebra are part of the administration’s so-called ‘green triangle,” which spans Puerto Rico’s east coast. The conservation project includes several natural gems in Fajardo, Humacao and Ceiba.

11 Comments on "3 new hotels, 1st casino in pipeline for Vieques"

  1. Sherry Santana June 17, 2011 at 6:12 PM · Reply

    Very sad that the natural beauty of my family’s homeland is going to be destroyed for this…so sad…..

  2. Glenn M. Moorer June 18, 2011 at 8:31 AM · Reply

    Very sad news… What’s next? Starbucks & McDonalds? I really enjoyed my trip to the rural island.

  3. Martin Fierro June 22, 2011 at 11:58 PM · Reply

    I have not heard of ANY local input on either of these three projects, but as a 15 year part time resident, property, and small business owner I find it OUTRAGEOUS that The Tourism Company would even consider allowing a large sized casino hotel like Le Grand Cofi within the framework of ecotouristic master plans that already exist for
    Vieques. How DARE The Tourism Company ignore the human aspect of green sustainable development here on this precious and historically ravaged island in favor of far away hotel owners and luxury travelers who want to gamble. How dare The Tourism Company assume the local residents and longtime visitors wish to go from being mistreated by the Navy for so many years to being turned into chambermaids. The Tourism Company has no right to treat Vieques as a commodity and to ignore the hard earned consensus that has evolved ON the island BY Vieques island interest groups and FOR the long term benefit of it’s residents and likeminded visitors of ecologically minded sustained development. This can ONLY occur by promoting very small scale hotels and second home ownership with active rental activity that foster locally based secondary and tertiary small businesses owned by residents employing members of the local community and operating in a manner consistent with local culture and values. The Tourism Company is WAY off base in ignoring the human element in ecotourism and needs to rapidly tear up the page it borrowed from the Navy of treating the people of Vieques as if they were ciphers sitting around to be factored into the business plans of profit seekers from who knows where. Can ANYBODY picture busloads of tourists attracted by the prospect of gambling and sitting around in cement towers showing up at local greenmarkets much less engaging with ANY secondary businesses? Does anybody imagine hotel purchases at that scale occurring anywhere but

    • mkantrow June 23, 2011 at 7:57 PM · Reply

      Thank you for your feedback. While I agree with many of your arguments, I also believe that the Tourism Co. has somewhat held back from granting these permits (which from the data I saw, have been on the table for a while) precisely over concerns about protecting Vieques’ pristine environment. I would sincerely suggest that you voice your concerns to the agency, especially since the permitting process is now moving along. Again, thank you for your support!

  4. Martin Fierro June 23, 2011 at 12:02 AM · Reply

    I have not heard of ANY local input on either of these three projects, but as a 15 year part time resident, property, and small business owner I find it OUTRAGEOUS that The Tourism Company would even consider allowing a large sized casino hotel like Le Grand Cofi within the framework of ecotouristic master plans that already exist for
    Vieques. How DARE The Tourism Company ignore the human aspect of green sustainable development here on this precious and historically ravaged island in favor of far away hotel owners and luxury travelers who want to gamble. How dare The Tourism Company assume the local residents and longtime visitors wish to go from being mistreated by the Navy for so many years to being turned into chambermaids. The Tourism Company has no right to treat Vieques as a commodity and to ignore the hard earned consensus that has evolved ON the island BY Vieques island interest groups and FOR the long term benefit of it’s residents and likeminded visitors of ecologically minded sustained development. This can ONLY occur by promoting very small scale hotels and second home ownership with active rental activity that foster locally based secondary and tertiary small businesses owned by residents employing members of the local community and operating in a manner consistent with local culture and values. The Tourism Company is WAY off base in ignoring the human element in ecotourism and needs to rapidly tear up the page it borrowed from the Navy of treating the people of Vieques as if they were ciphers sitting around to be factored into the business plans of profit seekers from who knows where. Can ANYBODY picture busloads of tourists attracted by the prospect of gambling and sitting around in cement towers showing up at local greenmarkets much less engaging with ANY secondary businesses? Does anybody imagine hotel supplies being purchased at that scale occurring anywhere but locally?
    It’s time for The Tourism Company to go back to the drawing boards, or better yet come on island and spend sometime with those of us that are already here.

  5. Martin Fierro June 23, 2011 at 12:08 AM · Reply

    I have not heard of ANY local input on either of these three projects, but as a 15 year part time resident, property, and small business owner I find it OUTRAGEOUS that The Tourism Company would even consider allowing a large sized casino hotel like Le Grand Cofi within the framework of ecotouristic master plans that already exist for
    Vieques. How DARE The Tourism Company ignore the human aspect of green sustainable development here on this precious and historically ravaged island in favor of far away hotel owners and luxury travelers who want to gamble. How dare The Tourism Company assume the local residents and longtime visitors wish to go from being mistreated by the Navy for so many years to being turned into chambermaids. Ecotourism can ONLY occur here by promoting very small scale hotels and second home ownership with active rental activity that foster locally based secondary and tertiary small businesses owned by residents employing members of the local community and operating in a manner consistent with local culture and values. The Tourism Company is WAY off base in ignoring the human element in ecotourism and needs to rapidly tear up the page it borrowed from the Navy of treating the people of Vieques as if they were ciphers sitting around to be factored into the business plans of profit seekers from who knows where.

  6. Myrtelina Lopez June 26, 2011 at 10:29 PM · Reply

    I agree with the comments made by Martin Fierro. I live in New Mexico now but grew up in Vieques. I totally disagree with the Tourism Dept. and with the local Vieques government (elected to protect the voters) to build more hotels, specially one with a casino. Casinos are a downfall to communities. I have visited half of the casinos in NM and I believe the clientele is poor people investing in a dream that will not materialize. Casinos are there to get rich. I believe some of the money needs to be invested in curing the drug problem of the island. Vieques is getting bad publicity due in part to the drug problem. How many tourists do you really think will go to this island if it has this problem. In addition, a few jobs will not solve the problem of unemployment. Invest in education. These few jobs will only be temporally. Invest in factories like before. A lot of factories are going to China. Presently, one can find very few USA products on the market. Viequenses were proud people when they could work and bring money into their homes. Please, please do not allow casinos in Vieques. They will end destroying more families than helping them. More thefts, more killings, and more disrespect for the islanders and the tourists. Do you really think this is a sustainable solution for the problems that plague Vieques. I think some government officials in PR and the USA are punishing Vieques for speaking and removing the naval forces from the Island, the undercurrent movida.

  7. John Schafer July 29, 2011 at 6:04 PM · Reply

    I am a refugee after 20 years in Key West. I can only respond that CHANGE is inevitable no matter how ‘pristene’ our present condition(which it really isn’t). Our goal should be to control and direct the changes which cannot be diverted. We will change. albeit kicking all the way.

  8. Ana Lacey November 29, 2014 at 1:56 PM · Reply

    That is just great. How are the tourist supposed to get there. The ferry service is deplorable and air service is by propeller planes. Maybe the new hotels will ante up and start their own ferry service. Maybe then and only then the ATM will sit up and take notice.

    • Cookie Romero-Kirvan November 29, 2014 at 3:45 PM · Reply

      I agree with you 100 %

      • angel November 29, 2014 at 11:09 PM · Reply

        They are saying cruise ships will bring the tourists in, which of course does not solve the residents need for ferry service. But some progress may be a good thing for tourism and employment, although I cannot see it happening on this grand of a scale as mentioned in the article.

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