After more than 30 years, Grapetree Bay Hotel and Villas on St. Croix is scheduled to reopen later this month.
The sprawling 45-acre property, across the bay from the Divi Carina Bay Resort on St. Croix’s East End, enjoyed its heyday in the late 1960s, but was heavily damaged during Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and had remained in a neglected state of disrepair.
“It’s been owned twice since then, but nobody really did much to it,” said Josh Sayre, who is part of the investment group that bought the property. “I found the Maria damage and the Hugo damage and the sitting-there-for-30-years damage — pretty much it was all damaged, with no windows, no doors and rats everywhere.”
Sayre, from California, is a long-time builder and remodeler of dilapidated structures. He has built houses for V.I. Housing Finance Authority and had been building some houses privately on St. Croix to sell, but rebuilding the hotel was too large a project for him to handle remotely, so he moved to St. Croix permanently to tackle the job.
“Those locals who remember Grapetree Hotel hold it in very high regard nostalgically. I’m trying to bring it back to the caliber it was,” he said.
The project was massive.
In Sayre’s estimation, there was too much concrete to completely tear down the building, so he set about pouring concrete walls and reinforcing the structure that was left.
“We needed to turn the engine back on,” he said. “We had to jackhammer and replace all the plumbing and all the electrical. It was a major overhaul.”
It took two years to renovate the main building, which includes 18 hotel rooms. Renovation of the 56 villas will be ongoing, the first of which Sayre hopes to complete in 2022. The cost, he said, is already “in the millions.”
Despite delays in shipping and material availability that faced everyone at the start of the pandemic, Sayre and his team were able to work right through COVID. “We had such major structural issues, so what we needed that first year was steel, sand, cement and things like plumbing materials, so I just bought it in bulk,” Sayre said. “Materials started getting harder to get towards the end. I utilized our Home Depot and Florida containers and shipping out of Puerto Rico, all different kinds of methods to get what I needed.”
The main building and its 18 hotel rooms are now ready for occupancy. Amenities include a pool, full gym, beach and hiking trails. Once details are finalized regarding their reservation system, the owners hope to open later this month.
The property’s Sea Terrace Restaurant opened Saturday, and to start will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch. Fine dining in the evenings will be added in the near future.
Sayre feels the hotel will be a popular event and wedding venue.
“If you look at the building, it’s really well set up for large parties like weddings and reunions,” he said. “The 18 rooms are a tiny part of the building. There’s a lot of open space, multiple bars and it’s got a football field for a lobby.”
For more information call 340-249-0700 or visit www.grapetreebayhotel.com.