Officials meet in Ceiba to discuss the future of Roosevelt Roads

By John McPhaul

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, along with the Ceiba Mayor Samuel “Sammy” Rivera Báez, House Minority Leader Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez, and Sen. Marissa “Marissita” Jiménez, discussed revitalization plans for the former Naval Station Roosevelt Roads on Sunday with Roosevelt Roads Redevelopment Authority Executive Director-designate Nilda Marchan and developers.

“Ceiba has an extraordinary potential for economic development and precisely because of communities like these, I currently have three legislative initiatives that would promote this development: that the entirety of Puerto Rico be considered an Opportunity Zone; for Puerto Rico to become an air cargo center; and to attract manufacturing to American soil,” González Colón said. “This goes very much hand-in-hand with the economic revitalization plan that Mayor Sammy Rivera has to establish infrastructure projects, and to rehabilitate, reinhabit and repopulate Ceiba.”

Opportunity zones are classifications that seek to attract investment to economically depressed areas by granting preferential taxation treatment that increases the longer the investment is maintained in that area, which in turn encourages investment and job creation. To have more opportunities for economic injection, the resident commissioner seeks to have Puerto Rico classified in its entirety as an opportunity zone.

Currently, the area where the old Roosevelt Roads base is located does not fall within this classification because it is not included in census statistics, something González Colón’s measure would change in order to help direct investment in the former U.S. Navy base.

“The development of the land of the old Roosevelt Roads naval base is a priority, more so at this time” she said. “The traffic generated by the new maritime transportation dock to Vieques and Culebra should be a central part of development, as is the airport. But it is necessary to work with the aspect of the electrical and water infrastructure, which in the vast majority of the base area does not exist. That must be the priority.”

Méndez Núñez, the former speaker of the island House of Representatives and current representative for District 36, which includes the municipalities of Río Grande, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Vieques and Culebra, noted that González Colón’s initiative “would make it possible to attract investments that are necessary for the development of the Roosevelt Roads lands, which, in turn, would result in an injection of millions of dollars into the economy of the municipalities of the eastern region.”

During the tour, the officials spoke with the developers of the LoopLand Hotel & Resort at Ceiba Bay project, which proposes to rehabilitate 500 acres of land in the old base, with some 728 villas and an investment of $25 million.

They also visited two projects that are already being developed within the former base. One of them is LinkActiv, a call center with capacity for 150 people on its two floors. Fifty percent of LinkActiv’s employees are from Ceiba and Naguabo, and there are plans to expand services.

The second project is the Military Reserve Association, National Guard Veterans and Nautical Veterans, in which veterans presented their proposal to expand their operations within the old base.

Rivera and Ceiba municipal legislators presented to the resident commissioner the tourism development project near Los Machos beach as part of their economic development plans for the municipality which also include revitalizing the grounds of the Parcelas Aguas Claras Elementary School and the Río Abajo School.

González Colón also took advantage of her visit to “La Ciudad del Marlin” to dialogue with small businesses about how they have managed to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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