By Alexander Britell
Something is happening in Frederiksted.
This historic town on the western edge of the island of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands has long lived in the shadow of its bigger, more famous twin, Christiansted, on the eastern half of the island.
But that’s beginning to change, thanks to in large part to a small group of visionaries and risk takers making a bet on place filled with potential.
At the center of Frederiksted’s rebirth is The Fred, a hip, boutique hotel that’s the brainchild of developers Christopher “Topher” Swanson and Jeff Printz.
The Fred is set in an 18th century residence on Strand Street restored with new amenities, colorful art and a hip, fresh ambience.
More importantly? It’s the first new hotel in St Croix in more than 30 years.
Right now, The Fred has opened 12 of what will eventually be 22 rooms, with a complete opening in April that will include everything from a rooftop bar to a restaurant to the already-debuted spa.
The rooms are all colorfully, creatively designed; there’s original art on the walls of every room, each of which is assigned its own outdoor terrace space.
The property will also be using Archstone micro-turbines that, when up and running, will power the entire hotel on propane — meaning an overall carbon footprint one-ninth the size of a single automobile.
And it isn’t just new — it’s also the only hotel in St Croix that’s both on the beach and in town.
Swanson said he and Printz, who have also rehabilitated a now-thriving apartment complex in town called Liberty Hall, looked at 14 Caribbean islands before settling in St Croix, seeing a potential in this corner of St Croix that reminded of them of their previous home.
“Part of the reason we moved here is because we saw the tremendous opportunities — it felt like Washington, DC 20 years ago, before anybody wanted to live there,” he told Caribbean Journal. “As soon as the word gets out, more people will come.”
He said The Fred came from a love of urban travel – and the idea of traveling to a place without having to drive, something that’s rare in the region.
Indeed, Frederiksted has quietly cultivated a truly walkable small city that has everything from a robust art museum (the wonderful Caribbean Museum Center for The Arts) to a growing number of excellent bars and eateries.
“Everything is really coming alive,” he said, pointing to already-established spots like Polly’s at the Pier, the reopened Tap Deck to the popular Lost Dog Pub, a longtime institution in the town.
And just next door is another new addition: the sleek Louie & Nacho’s Beach Bar, offering sweeping second-level views of the pier and the sea.
Walking around town, amid beautiful arched walkways across the street from the sea, you can sense it, a kind of proto-Key West or Harbour Island, funky and friendly.
“It’s definitely going through a renaissance,” Swanson said.
It’s the sort of rebirth that helps put hurricanes in the rear view mirror, as an island that has rather heroically rebounded begins an exciting new chapter.