Billionaires fight over hotel and quality of life in St. Barts
Dupré Enterprises launched the projects as the island faced new sustainability concerns. A 2016 Wildlife Conservation Society report said the island’s environment was “rapidly degrading” due to land-based pollution pouring into the sea and destroying marine habitats, urbanization and overfishing. A year later, Hurricane Irma devastated the island, worsening an already severe housing shortage for workers.
This tension may explain some of the animosity towards Mrs. Dupré and her husband, Marc Nunelly (former Managing Partner of Bain Capital, former Managing Director of Domino’s Pizza and investor in outsourcing, call center and other ventures). Someone scrawled “Get Out Dupré Pig” in red on the white building wall – a highly unusual act of vandalism on the mostly crime-free island. One of the island’s English-speaking online forums has a chat titled “Death to Domino’s Pizza” in reference to the hotel project.
“In one corner you have this billionaire corporation and in the other a group of locals saying please don’t harm our marine life,” said Youngstown, Ohio lawyer Eddie Czopur, who has stayed in the bay of Saint-Jean. during the winter season for years. “It was like a ‘Rocky’ story, which the locals won over.”
But Mrs. Dupré and Mr Nunelly aren’t the only super-rich to have been accused of making plans that seem to ignore island scale or Caribbean aesthetics. Islanders have seen tycoons increasingly battle to see who can anchor the biggest yacht in the harbor or build the biggest villa.
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The local government recently limited the size of new villas to less than 150 square meters (just over 1,600 square feet). But at least 50 previously issued building permits are still pending, meaning new mega mansions will surely be erected. The once crystal clear waters around the island have turned murky as construction sediment damages reefs and drives out marine life. A marine biologist who works on the island told me she cried after returning to a dive site once teeming with turtles and sharks and finding it barren.
Ms. Dupré and her husband declined to comment for this article, referring questions to Mr. Stanton, a spokesperson for Ms. Dupré and her company, SAS St. Jean Beach Real Estate. He said the company will appeal the decision against L’Etoile’s permit to a higher court in France in March, but that decision will take at least 15 months. Ms Dupré still hopes to build a hotel, but will fill the hole as ordered once the community grants permission, he said.
“She has a strong background in hotel management, and Denise and the family have had a special affection for the island for over 20 years,” Mr Stanton said. “She and the St. Barts team she worked with feel they were very focused on bringing something beautiful and peaceful to this beach, and will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with the community about the project.”