Progress on the ground and on paper for Alma College development

Construction vehicles are moving dirt at the former Alma College site in St. Thomas, and that's not the only sign of progress for the planned development.

"We had Patriot Properties come and advise us they are completing the cleanup on the Alma College site," says St. Thomas City Manager Wendell Graves.

He says there are a number of things they needed to do to satisfy site conditions and environmental issues.

Still, despite the moving of ground, they will need clearance from the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal before construction can begin.

But after months of detailed negotiations between Patriot Properties and the City of St. Thomas, they have finally completed and submitted a heritage easement agreement.

Now for the first time there is a legal document which requires someone to do something with the remaining heritage features.

"For example, if we did nothing to the property, we would still have to implement the heritage features," says Patriot Properties' Michael Loewith.

"They put our feet to the fire, and those attributes have to be done within a certain time period. Those features will live again, whether our development happens or not."

Loewith says he already has the floor plans locked down, priced individually for rental rates and the conceptual designs of the buildings are completely done. He adds that once LPAT gives them the go-ahead, development will follow quickly.

"In my world, I've been looking at the pictures every day. When I go to the site, I'm like, ‘Where the hell are the buildings?’ I've been looking at them every day for months."

Loewith adds his company plans to take over official ownership of the property later this month.

At the 118th Alma College Alumnae Reunion on the weekend, many of the graduates were thrilled to hear about the finished Heritage Easement Agreement, and cleanup.

"We're excited to have something there, because it's sad to drive by an empty lot," says the association's president, Donna Robertson. "As long as its a happy place, and there is some memory of Alma around...we'd like to see it finished."