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Government Unveils Preliminary Study To Redevelop Roosevelt Roads

Suggests The Base’s 8,000+ Acres Should Be Used For Tourism-Related Business, Not Transshipment Port


October 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The local government unveiled a preliminary study that divides the 8,612 acres at U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in Ceiba into five redevelopment zones: an airport, a science & technology park, a tourist port, a residential area, and a nature reserve.

Consulting firm CB Richard Ellis, which prepared the study, currently has the task of presenting its final master plan in 90 days, which should include a marketing analysis; feedback from the private sector; environmental and structural evaluations; proposed ideas; and verification of other development initiatives on the island.

If approved, the government and private sector would together have to invest $1 billion to develop Roosevelt Roads as a tourism-related facility.

The final master plan is expected to comply with the requirements of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Base Realignment & Closing program, referred to as BRAC, which was established to dispose of excess federal military properties by selling or transferring them to other federal agencies or to local redevelopment authorities. Roosevelt Roads is expected to close no later than April 2004.

Milton Segarra, secretary of the Department of Economic Development & Commerce, said the five zones have been divided according to their characteristics as well as their current and proposed uses.

"This is a preliminary study, which is under our evaluation," Segarra added. "The possibilities are good, in principle, and they are in tune with what the steering committee had visualized initially."

The steering committee members include Segarra, Ceiba Mayor Gerardo Cruz, Puerto Rico Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose Suarez, Promoexport Executive Director Antonio Sosa Pascual, Ports Authority Executive Director Miguel Soto Lacourt, and Housing Department Secretary Ileana Echegoyen.

The study recommends Roosevelt Roads’ airport, Ofstie Field, its surrounding buildings, and its 11,000-foot runway be redeveloped into an air cargo distribution center, industrial park, or charter-flight center.

It also states that 1,200 acres, including land situated south of the base’s airport, could be used for research & development and biotechnology firms, as well as the home for a conference center, a hotel, retail stores, and a residential area.

Another 500 acres around the base’s port area could include a terminal for cruise ships and ferries, a marina for yachts, retail shops, and restaurants.

In the western sector of Roosevelt Roads, there are 500 acres that could be utilized for a residential complex with mixed-use components such as retail, restaurants, hotels, and a marina. Another suggestion in the study involves redeveloping 1,200 acres for ecological purposes; approximately 53% of the land at Roosevelt Roads is covered with mangroves.

Meanwhile, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila says he will meet with the Economic Adjustment Office of the U.S. Department of Defense to follow up on the recommendations highlighted in the preliminary study.

"This joint effort between the federal government, the Department of Economic Development & Commerce, and CB Richard Ellis will help us identify the benefits that the closed base could provide," added Acevedo Vila, who claims he is committed to developing the land to its fullest, with an emphasis on tourism.

Acevedo Vila indicated that no federal agency except for the U.S. Army Reserve, which wants to keep some installations there, has shown interest in Roosevelt Roads.

An in-depth report by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS (CB May 1) revealed the best use for Roosevelt Roads would be to develop it into a world-class transshipment port because its strategic location near the Mona Passage, the Western Hemisphere’s only unobstructed deepwater shipping lane, would make it ideal for cargo ships en route to the Panama Canal as well as for cargo traffic between Europe and Asia.

Last month, former Gov. Pedro Rossello unveiled a master plan to enter Puerto Rico into the global transshipment market. The plan would integrate eight maritime facilities throughout the island, including a world-class transshipment port to be built in Ceiba.

Conversely, New Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate Carlos Pesquera proposed that Roosevelt Roads be converted into a mixed-use federal and local government facility emphasizing the development of science and technology and using the base’s airport for a cargo distribution center.

"The closing of Roosevelt Roads does not imply the departure of [the] federal government. A message of this nature would be incorrect and detrimental for the development and upkeep of our relations with the U.S. mainland," Pesquera said. "On the contrary, we have to learn from our past experiences to develop intelligent strategies that will permit use of the land at Roosevelt Roads in an efficient way that will benefit the local population."

Possible Zones for the Redevelopment of Roosevelt Roads

Zones: Acres

  • Airport: 1,200
  • Science park: 1,250
  • Tourism port: 500
  • Residential area: 500
  • Nature reserve: 1,250

Subtotal: 3,750*

Other areas (environmentally sensitive): 3,000

Total land: 8,612

*Acreage shown for the development zones excludes low-lying flood plains and environmentally sensitive areas.

Source: Puerto Rico Management & Economic Consultants Inc.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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