St. Croix Foundation (SCF) is committed to rehabilitating the historic Alexander Theatre in Downtown Christiansted, St. Croix to serve as an economically viable state-of-the-art performing arts center, conference convening space, and job training center. When completed, the Theatre will also serve as an emergency shelter accommodating up to 310 people and housing a safe room to withstand hurricane force winds.
This project aims to ensure the safety of residents during times of disaster while supporting holistic community revitalization.
Through the restoration, the Theatre will be transformed into a state-of-the-art performing arts center with a movie screen and a stage, becoming the only indoor amphitheater on St. Croix large enough to accommodate conferences and large gatherings. Additionally, it will serve as a job training center for youth pursuing careers in hospitality, theatre, video and music production. Lastly, it will provide regular subsidized meeting spaces for the Foundation’s 40 cross-sector consortium partners.
The restoration is broken down into two phases. The first phase is to conduct a technical feasibility study which will result in the final project design with full technical specifications, a complete scope of work, cost analysis, and environmental reviews of the preferred mitigation alternatives. The second phase is the complete restoration of the Theatre, including retrofits to the roof system and the addition of structural components necessary to meet FEMA’s storm shelter standards; updates to the floorplan and construction design to maximize shelter capacity (hardening of existing interior features, security elements, etc.); installation of an emergency generator, HVAC unit, and other equipment necessary for the emergency operations; and new electrical and mechanical wiring throughout.
In May 2019, FEMA Hazard Mitigation funding was approved to complete the first phase and the funding to complete the second phase is currently under review by FEMA. As a trusted and steadfast civic leader, the Foundation will coordinate within the civic, private and public sectors to complete the restoration. The Foundation will in turn conduct interviews and select a project manager and a support staff to manage the restoration.
Phase I: Technical Feasibility Study
June 2019 – January 2020 (Months 1 – 6): Finalize design plans; Finalize design technical specifications; Wind and seismic mitigation analysis of the existing structure; Create detailed scope of work, including a detailed project timeline and cost analysis; Conduct interviews and select a project manager and support staff.
Phase II: Theatre Restoration
February 2020 – August 2020 (Months 6 – 12): Retrofitting of the roof system and addition of structural components necessary to meet FEMA’s storm shelter standards (FEMA 361 and ICC 500)
September 2020 – January 2021 (Months 12 – 16): Updates to floorplan and construction design to maximize shelter capacity and operational requirements (to include hardening of existing interior features, security elements, as well as ADA compliance design requirements)
January 2021 – September 2021 (Months 16 – 24): Purchase and installation of a sufficiently sized emergency generator, HVAC unit and other equipment necessary for the emergency operations of the facility; New electrical and mechanical writing throughout as required by code; Acquisition of small parcels of property directly adjacent to the building to be used for the installation of generator and other necessary equipment for safe room shelter operation.
In 2017, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) suffered the catastrophic force of two Category 5 Hurricanes, which not only raised awareness of the implications of severe weather patterns, but also brought to question the future sustainability of America’s isolated, underserved Caribbean communities. The impact of Hurricane Maria on St. Croix exposed long-term vulnerabilities of working communities, including disruptions to communication infrastructure as well as education, healthcare and economic systems.
Today, residents still have unmet needs and are seeking assistance for necessities like housing. However, beyond the impact of the hurricane in this territory, little regard is often given to the historical impact of slavery on the community’s health, well-being, and ongoing social struggles. It is imperative to create intentional spaces to preserve heritage, celebrate culture, and position the arts as a pathway to healing and social change. Specifically, the Alexander Theatre in Downtown Christiansted, St. Croix can be utilized to address these needs. This 12,000 square foot historic landmark sits in the heart of the Christiansted. Built circa 1954, for decades the Theatre served as a cinema and public gathering space but stands in disrepair after being damaged in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo, and by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Sunday Market Square, the surrounding space which houses the Theatre, provided a space in the 1700s for enslaved Crucians to trade goods and socialize on Sundays, their only day off. The Square remained a popular meeting place for residents through the 1900s.
Saint Croix Foundation (SCF) acquired the Theatre and several adjacent buildings in 1996 and began renovating the properties in 1998. The Theatre became a key element of the Foundation’s downtown revitalization. They replaced the roof of the theatre and completed a comprehensive design study. However, Hurricane Maria presented a need and monumental opportunity to broaden the vision for the Theatre.
The Foundation is tasked with creating a fund that can accommodate the reimbursable grants expected from the federal government and funding for the private sector. The foundation is seeking funding partners that are interested in work in hazard mitigation and economic revitalization. In addition, they are seeing in-kind technical support for the construction and the programmatic development of the space.
The overall project will specifically strengthen the work of cultural organizations; increase relationships within cultural projects, programs and events; and connect the arts and culture communities to one another.
The Foundation will work with their nonprofit consortium partners who sit in the Arts and Culture Sector to develop programming around the Theatre to make it a dynamic and community-based gathering space where culture is celebrated and the arts are cultivated.
At the completion of this project the Foundation and its partners can offer best practices and lessons learned on leveraging Hazard Mitigation funding for long term economic development and developing community-driven programming around art and culture.