Philipsburg, Sint Maarten — On Thursday January 10, Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint Maarten (APS) hosted an engaging showcase event of the heritage site, the Mary’s Fancy Plantation. Invited guests consisted of IPKO members of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, the Minister of Finance, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, the Department of Culture secretary general and several government officials and support staff. Guests were treated to a relaxed afternoon of presentations, demonstrations and entertainment. Several speakers gave insightful details of the project, elaborating on its inception, defined cultural heritage and restoration progress. Speakers included APS Supervisory Board chair Mr. Franklyn Richards, Mr. Alfonso Blijden, Dr. Jay Haviser, Architect duo Cees den Heijer and Michael Newton and APS Director Nadya Croes – van Putten.
The restoration of the Mary’s Fancy Plantation by the APS is one of the development projects of the pension fund. The property was purchased by APS in 2014 and upon completion will offer visitors the experience of an eco-hotel, art gallery /cultural auditorium and botanical garden. The key heritage features of the location are: the plantation house, an 18th century grave, sugar factory and servant’s quarter /kitchen. Serious concerns for APS right now are e.g.; the lack of a functioning monument council which can lead to delays as well as the long wait for permits that have led to delays in the past with other projects.
APS Director Mrs. Nadya Croes van Putten stated: “These matters need to be addressed! Nonetheless, once this project is on stream, the returns will remain in Sint Maarten, providing the country with the opportunity to in time, reduce its dependency on overseas investments. The Mary’s Fancy Plantation, one of St. Maarten’s cultural heritage sites is one of several investment projects that by definition ‘gives back’ to St. Maarten.”
The ambiance of the event was designed to trigger tranquility and amplify the natural beauty of the grounds. MC for the event, King Vers invited guests to relax and enjoy, to which APS Supervisory Board Chair Franklyn Richards complimented the request by reminding guests to ensure that they acknowledge their surroundings and envision ‘what once was’ as well as the prospect of the property upon completion.
In his speech, Mr. Richard’s touched on the historical background, interest of APS and restoration progress of the project. “A cultural heritage site, this is how we affectionately and consciously refer to the Mary’s Fancy Plantation. Affectionately and consciously because we, APS, St. Maarten, have made a decision to commit ourselves to do our collective best to preserve our history for generations to come.”
Mr. Alfonso Blijden reiterated the value of cultural preservation while taking guests down memory lane with historical background information. “Monuments possess historical values resulting from their beautiful architecture and their correlation with important events that occurred in the heritage area such as religious, social and political events. With time Monuments are subjected to processes of degradation, which leads to a situation in which they became not able to fulfil the purpose for which they were built. And that is where institutions such as the APS comes in. With their input, monuments such as the Mary’s Fancy Plantation can be restored back to its former glory.”
Simarc, contracted by APS, executed the archaeological digs and provided consultation and was represented at the event by Dr. Jay Haviser. The collaboration with Simarc grants young locals the opportunity to be actively involved in the project, highlighting the importance of community engagement in such a project. The Mary’s Fancy Plantation project is referenced to be a model example of how local monument restoration projects should be executed. “Artefacts and heritage pieces that were found during the digs will be considered for incorporation in the design. Trees are also part of the heritage of our island. Over 160 trees are marked for preservation and in the designs for future restoration /development, they will be preserved. APS is busy with the preservation of this in a respectful manner.”– Dr. Jay Haviser – Simarc Director.
Architect duo Cees den Heijer and Michael Newton presented the master plan for the future use of the property: eco-hotel, art gallery /cultural auditorium and botanical garden. Challenges in the restoration process were presented, those being; changing the structures /properties so they can handle the new function (eco-hotel etc.), dealing with the damage caused by the termites and improving the hurricane resistance of the structure.
In closing, Mrs. Croes- van Putten stated; it is important for the APS that our Government and Kingdom relations be informed on the role of APS and the impact the pension fund can make towards the development of St. Maarten within the coming years. Our commitment is evident e.g. in our participation in the financing of the new general hospital for St. Maarten and our affordable housing project Oryx Hills in which by August 2019 we will be adding 62 homes to the housing inventory of Sint Maarten.