The completed Belvedere Towers buildings (in foreground) with the other four buildings in various stages of repair.
BELVEDERE–With repairs to the first two Belvedere Towers buildings completed, sixteen families are in the process of moving into newly renovated apartments. The renovation work was part of the St. Maarten Trust Fund’s Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1).
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran, Dutch Representative in St. Maarten Chris Johnson, and National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) Director Claret Connor visited the completed buildings on Thursday. During the visit, the dignitaries officially handed over the two buildings to St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) General Director Helen Salomons.
Under ERP-1, 64 units in six residential apartment buildings will be completely renovated. With the completion of the first two buildings, there are now four buildings still undergoing renovation.
The works include repairs to roofs and electrical wiring, and the installation of doors, windows, ceiling tiles and plumbing fixtures. Additionally, the foundations and outside walls are being strengthened to lessen the likelihood and severity of damage in future natural disasters, especially hurricanes and earthquakes.
Of the remaining four buildings undergoing renovation, two are scheduled for completion in October 2022, another in December 2022, and the final building in January 2023.
A majority of those who have moved into the completed buildings are elderly. To accommodate some of their safety and mobility needs, the contractor has installed sturdy handrails. Additionally, SMHDF and SZV have ensured that the differently-abled tenants reside on the ground floor.
Jacobs is pleased that some of the country’s seniors can now enjoy affordable, safer housing in the Belvedere Towers. “Thanks to the completion of the first two buildings in this project, 16 more families, including seniors and those who are differently abled, can find solace in their newly renovated homes. They can rest well knowing the repairs will mean remaining safely in their homes for many years to come,” Jacobs said.
The government of St. Maarten prioritised the renovation of the Belvedere Towers under ERP-1, said Doran. “I am satisfied with the progress of the works. The towers, amongst others, were destroyed by the hurricanes in 2017. It is great to see that they are built to be more resilient to extreme weather conditions. It is our homes and families that are impacted when Mother Nature throws a curve ball. I would like to thank all who are part of the repairs. Congratulations also to the tenants. I am looking forward to the completion of the other buildings.”
Seeing tenants being able to move into fully repaired homes was a proud moment for SMHDF, said Salomons. “SMHDF has been waiting for this day for many years and must truly thank the fantastic tenants of Belvedere Towers who for many years have waited for this day under sometimes very stressful and difficult conditions.
“On behalf of our supervisory board and SMHDF, many thanks also to government for its continued trust in our organisation to manage and take care of these renovated properties provided through the Trust Fund and NRPB. We are looking forward to invitations to the other tenants to occupy other properties at the Towers, when more renovations come on stream.”
The Trust Fund has a broad scope when it comes to recovery, but strengthening housing is key as we all know, said Dutch Representative in St. Maarten Chris Johnson. “I continue to be impressed by the hard work of all those involved with this process, and I am very glad that families are able to benefit directly. There is still a long way to go, but a lot has been done, and continues to be done on a daily basis.”
In addition to the Belvedere Towers, some 369 social housing units have been repaired using finances from the St. Maarten Trust Fund. Of these, 109 units were repaired through the NRPB, while 260 units that were repaired by SMHDF immediately after Hurricane Irma have received retroactive financing.
“When the remaining buildings of the Belvedere Towers are completed, the Trust Fund will have repaired roofs, windows, doors and, in some cases, complete units, of more than 400 social homes, positively impacting more than 1,100 St. Maarten residents. I’m happy that safer and more hurricane resilient social housing has been made available through the joint efforts of the Government of St. Maarten, the NRPB, and the World Bank, with funding from the Netherlands,” said Connor.
ERP-1 is one of the many projects of the St. Maarten Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund, which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the NRPB on behalf of the Government of St. Maarten.