Club Orient - Saint-Martin, French West Indies
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Rebuilding Club Orient
Club Orient after Hurricane Irma 2017
Is Club Orient ever going to re-open?
Yes, Club Orient will reopen once the required approvals are obtained and reconstruction is completed.
There is an active group of owners who have been working toward rebuilding and reopening the resort since shortly after Hurricane Irma.
When is the reconstruction expected to begin?
Our goal is to have work begin on site by Fall 2021.
What will the new Club Orient look like?
When finished, Club Orient will look and feel basically the same as prior to Hurricane Irma.
The PPRN (see explanation below) allows for rebuilding the structures that existed prior to Hurricane Irma but no additional structures are permitted for construction in this area.
Each building was initially assessed in the fall of 2017 to determine which were candidates for repair. Another assessment will be completed prior to starting reconstruction. Many of the original concrete buildings can be repaired but some may need to be demolished and rebuilt. All the wooden units were destroyed and will need to be rebuilt.
New buildings will be constructed to withstand significant storms. Two important improvements will be that all buildings will be rebuilt with concrete instead of wood, and some buildings will be relocated farther back from the shoreline.
Why hasn’t any work been done?
The Copro Board formed an Owners’ Rebuilding Group shortly after Hurricane Irma. This group has grown to include a large number of owners who have volunteered to work on the rebuilding project.
While there has not been much visible progress at the Club Orient site, the Rebuilding Group has been meeting frequently, often weekly. While it often seems that we are “one step forward, two steps back” we are undeterred in our goal of rebuilding.
More information is available below in the Rebuilding Details. While there have been various obstacles, one major obstacle has been the PPRN.
What is the PPRN and why does it affect Club Orient?
The PPRN (Plan de Prevention des Risque Naturels) defines levels of risk from natural disasters for specific locations. It illustrates the level of risk for each area using colour-coded maps and outlines what types of buildings can be built (or rebuilt) in which areas. It is intended to safeguard the people and minimize potential property loss due to foreseeable risks and is under the jurisdiction of the Prefect.
The PPRN directly affects the ability to rebuild Club Orient because the local building department is required to consider this framework when processing building permit applications.
Following Hurricane Irma in 2017 and its disastrous consequences, the PPRN for Saint Martin was revised and became more restrictive. Virtually all the land used by Club Orient, as well as much of Sandy Ground and other coastal towns in Saint Martin, changed from allowing restricted building to not allowing any building at all.
Immediately following Hurricane Irma, the Copro Board held joint meetings with the Board of Directors for the hotel operation, Orient Beach Club (OBC). It was clear that this would need to be a coordinated effort. The Rebuilding Group continued to work closely with OBC until OBC went into liquidation in the fall of 2018.
The first efforts were to establish a baseline of the situation. As soon as people were allowed back on the island a small group, including a structural engineer experienced in assessing damage, went and conducted detailed assessments of the buildings. Reports were created for each unit and distributed to the owners in late October 2017.
By January 2018, an architectural firm had been selected and engaged by Copro to begin the planning for rebuilding. The architect, based in France but with operations on Saint Martin, recommended that Copro submit a “Déclaration Préalable Irma” (DPI), a process created to allow buildings damaged by Irma to be repaired quickly without a full rebuilding permit. In parallel, contractors were hired to clean up the grounds, a massive effort that continued through March 2018.
In April 2018, Copro held meetings with owners to present a plan for rebuilding, complete with estimated costs and timelines. The plans were approved at the 2018 General Assembly and bids to start clean-up and repair of units issued. By June 2018, clean-up and repair of the concrete minisuites started, in the hopes that they could be repaired and available for occupancy in late 2018.
In July 2018, clean-up and repair was halted for two reasons. The first was that Copro had not received its insurance payment. The second, more critical, was that the Collectivité denied our application for a DPI and said that we should be filing an application for a rebuilding permit instead.
When the DPI application was denied, clean-up and repair of the buildings was halted, awaiting the rebuilding permit. Unfortunately halting the repairs meant that it was no longer possible to meet the timeline required by the hotel operator, OBC, for reopening even a part of the resort. With no immediate source of income, OBC went into liquidation in October 2018.
Liquidation of OBC meant rethinking the rebuilding project since a phased approach had only been developed to allow the hotel to resume partial operations. It also meant that OBC would not be rebuilding the electrical infrastructure, the water desalination, and the waste-water treatment operations.
The rebuilding permit application was submitted following the Copro General Assembly in 2019 where the revised plans were presented to Copro members. Shortly afterwards, issues with the PPRN interrupted the application process and then in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted normal operations around the world.
Here are a few specifics from the last 3 years:
- By September 12, 2017, the Copro Board had started planning the approach to rebuilding Club Orient.
- In October 2017, a small group, including a structural engineer familiar with assessing buildings damaged by disasters, visited Club Orient and spent several days completing a detailed damage assessment of each building to report back the status to all owners.
- By November 2017, all owners had received their individual damage reports for their units, including photographs taken by the assessment team.
- In December 2017, a Zoom meeting was held for all owners to discuss the path forward.
- Following that meeting, an architectural firm was contacted by the Copro Board as French law requires an architectural firm to oversee all construction projects.
- Clean-up of the common areas was completed in early 2018 after a successful bid process for the work.
- In May 2018, the rebuilding plan was approved at a General Assembly (GA) and we submitted a Déclaration Préalable Irma (DPI), a special type of permit that was implemented to allow repairs to buildings damaged by Irma.
- Contracts for various repairs were put out to bid in anticipation of receiving approval from the GA so after the meeting, it was possible to start the clean-up of some units and preparation for repairs in May 2018.
- In July 2018, the local building department told us a DPI was not an appropriate application for the Club Orient site and so work on repairs was halted.
- By October 2018, we were prepared to submit for the rebuilding permit but the liquidation of OBC, the company that ran the hotel operation, required that we rethink the rebuilding process. A phased approach had only been proposed so that the hotel operation could restart as soon as possible.
- After the GA in June 2019, the reframed application for rebuilding the entire resort was submitted but there were administrative issues that were not resolved in the required timeframe for accepting the application.
- In August 2019, the Prefect signed the revised PPRN “in anticipation” and through the fall held a series of public consultations about any final revisions prior to finalizing it in December 2019.
- Through the fall, Copro had representatives attend the public consultations to understand and comment on how the PPRN would affect rebuilding at Club Orient. The consultations were not well-received by the public. In December 2019 there was significant local civil unrest about the PPRN that resulted in a high-ranking delegate (Dominique Lacroix) from France being tasked with making recommendations for accommodations specifically for Saint Martin.
- Members of the Owners’ Rebuilding Group met with the Lacroix delegation to address specific concerns for the Club Orient site.
- Shortly after the delegation visited Saint Martin, the COVID-19 pandemic began and progress was again halted but the delegation had produced a report making recommendations for revising the PPRN that would allow rebuilding to occur in some situations, including rebuilding at Club Orient.
- In August 2020, the decree implementing the revised PPRN “in anticipation” was declared void and once again caused uncertainty about approving a rebuilding permit.
- Throughout the fall of 2020 the architects hired by Copro continued to meet with the building department to ensure that when the application was submitted it would address any concerns that might be raised.
- In February 2021, the revised Rebuilding Permit application was submitted.