Blue Mall is ready – on the outside

POSTED: 08/9/11 11:54 AM

CUPECOY, St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The Blue Mall project in Cupecoy is a long way from being finished or ready for an official opening. While the structure is ready, the building’s interior is a maze of empty floors, waiting for tenants to move in, but at the moment, nothing much seems to be happening.
The $60 million project has a long and at times controversial history. Projected official opening dates have been moved up again and again. the Blue Properties web site at one time announced that the Blue residence – the 39 luxury apartments in the humongous building – would be ready over 100,000 square feet of floor space – would be ready in the first quarter of 2009.
But the fourth quarter of 2008 came and went, and nobody moved into the building. We are now almost three years later, and still there is no sign of economic activity, other than in the modest Blue Mall offices on the first floor.
Elsewhere in the building, banners indicate which stores will one day set up shop there: Swarovski, Paul&Shark Yachting, Ray Ban, Planeta Sports, Helly Hansen, US Imports (a French-side supermarket), Armani and of course Diamonds International. But the floors are empty, the ceilings are unfinished, and not a single retailer has started to equip its designated location with even a store front. When then Commissioner of Labor Hyacinth Richardson toured the facility in June 2009, developer Luis Gioia said that the mall would open in June 2010, and that everything was on schedule.
Richardson in turn assured the developer that “bringing in foreign labor will get government support.”
A month later, Gioia testified in the administrative court in Delano Richardson’s bribery lawsuit. Gioia said at that occasion that he had paid $1 million to obtain the building permit for the project, a statement that was immediately after this newspaper published it, vehemently denied by his attorney.
But on March 11 of last year it became clear where that $1 million-statement came from. Gioia paid it to improve the Rhine road that runs past the mall from the roundabout at Porto Cupecoy until the Sapphire Beach Club. Windward Roads executed the one million dollar project.
It is unclear why the project had encountered so many delays and on which date it will eventually open for business. Eduardo de Haay, the Blue Mall’s marketing and operations manager did not return our calls yesterday.

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