A non-profit organization seeks funding to open a vocational school in Sainte-Croix

The Virgin Islands Architectural Center for Built Heritage and Crafts Inc. plans to convert this former Christiansted monument, “The Old Barracks”, into a school of arts, historic preservation, culture, construction and architecture. (Photo source by Linda Morland)

A nonprofit in St. Croix called the Virgin Islands Architectural Center for Built Heritage and Crafts, Inc. is seeking an initial $ 1.5 million of the total of $ 10 million needed , for their popular efforts to open a vocational school for those interested in art preservation, culture, construction and architecture in the historic town of Christiansted.

Representatives of the nonprofit presented the centre’s vision of creating an urban campus and education lab during an interagency think tank held Friday as part of the Caribbean Brownfields Virtual Week. The event brought together professionals from the public and private sectors to support the recovery and redevelopment of the American Caribbean.

The center has a long way to go in securing the funds to revamp the proposed site, a structural relic called “Old Barracks”, and transform it into a college that will boost specialized trade, jobs and business opportunities. But the purpose of the virtual conference was for the center to gather information from federal agencies on how to get funding, open the college and start “Christiansted’s socio-economic renaissance”.

“St. Croix and all of the US Virgin Islands are in a period of transition, ”said the centre’s pre-recorded presentation. “The socio-economic structure that provided stability and prosperity in the second half of the 20th century has eroded and new approaches are needed to reinvigorate and revitalize the environment and the community that lives and thrives there.”

To reinvigorate the economy, the center plans to create educational opportunities outside of the University of the Virgin Islands and caters to students interested in architecture, construction, small business development and entrepreneurship.

“By producing graduates capable of doing metalworking, masonry, woodworking, painting, carpentry, cabinetmaking and drawing necessary to rehabilitate Virgin Island towns and other construction projects. across the islands, VIAC will play an important role in revitalization, ”the presentation said. .

Public management guru David Southgate led the think tank, which said the first step for the nonprofit would be to “start checking the environmental conditions at this site before they go out and do it. acquire, as well as begin to develop it ”.

Terry Wesley, who attended the conference representing the US Environmental Protection Agency – Region 2, said the agency would be able to provide the nonprofit contractual support free of charge as part of a grant. offered by the agency and a ‘technical assessment to help with that. the institute is moving forward. “

Other stakeholders and potential partners shared a plethora of ideas and delved into the vision for a vibrant vocational school that was historically conscious and ecologically forward-thinking, including the Director of the VI State Historic Preservation Commission, Sean Krigger, who said the center “will meet a clear need for skilled artisans to work on the restoration of our historic buildings.

Although the territory has talented artisans, he said, there is a greater need to do more.

Krigger said the commission could offer technical assistance for the program and possibly funding, although the commission’s fiscal capacity is limited.

Representatives from the National Park Service also contributed to the think tank, explaining that the National Park Service provided funding for the Historic Preservation Fund through the VI Historic Preservation Office, which could potentially give the business a boost. basic.

United States Economic Development Administration Representative Janelle Schindler said, “This is a great project… there are many ways the United States Economic Development Administration can support this.

Schindler said there was funding available under the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program.

“We can certainly consider multiple ways of financing parts of this project as part of economic adjustment,” she said, adding that the administration could provide local and technical assistance.

The conference buzzed as support for the project increased. Although no specific timeline has been set, the center is now about to start applying for grants.

Southland concluded the conference by informing participants that seed funds had been donated by various interested and interested parties to contribute to the business.

“We know it’s possible,” Southland said. “We need to train people to preserve these historic buildings in the American Caribbean, because they are part of the fabric and history of our communities.”

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