JPK Developments – Virgin Islands

written by BVC March 5, 2024

JPK Developments

Blueprint for the Future


Shaping the Virgin Islands’ architectural and cultural landscape, from luxury villas to sustainable energy projects

In the vibrant and ever-evolving real estate landscape of the Virgin Islands, JPK Developments carves a unique niche, blending the artistry of construction with the pragmatism of market demands. Founded over two decades ago in Saint Thomas by Jay Knoepfel, this construction firm has made its mark in residential and commercial sectors, adapting to shifts with resilience and innovative spirit.

Knoepfel, with a tone reflecting pride and humility, outlines the genesis of JPK Developments. “We started as a modest operation, focusing primarily on residential homes through a partnership model. Initially, our strategy hinged on building and selling properties within a buoyant real estate market,” he recounts. This approach, grounded in creating for themselves, allowed them to craft projects that were not just structures but embodiments of potential homes and businesses, anticipating the desires of future occupants.

However, the trajectory of JPK Developments took a significant turn as external factors came into play. “The landscape shifted beneath us. The demand evolved from us building for our inventory to taking on projects for external clients, coinciding with a downturn in the real estate market,” Knoepfel explains. This pivot wasn’t just a change in direction but a transformation in how they approached construction. Building for clients introduced them to a broader spectrum of projects, including commercial endeavors like educational institutions, marking a diversification in their portfolio.

However, this shift towards client-driven projects did not dampen JPK Developments’ creative enthusiasm. “There’s an inherent creativity in constructing something from the ground up, especially when it’s something as personal as someone’s home or as impactful as a community’s school,” Knoepfel shares. His passion for the creative process shines through as he discusses the satisfaction of balancing efficiency with aesthetic appeal.



A Cultural Revival Through Construction

In the heart of the Virgin Islands, the revitalization of the Saint Thomas horse race track is a nod toward the island’s resilience and commitment to its heritage. This venture, spearheaded by JPK Developments in collaboration with Southland Gaming, aims to restore a pivotal element of the community’s cultural and social fabric.

“The horse race track on Saint Thomas holds a special place in the hearts of Virgin Islanders,” Knoepfel begins, his voice imbued with a reverence for the project. “It’s more than just a venue; it’s a cultural cornerstone that, especially during Carnival, becomes a hub of tradition and community spirit.” This acknowledgment of the track’s significance underscores the project’s importance in infrastructure and cultural revival.

Knoepfel delves into the specifics of the collaboration with Southland Gaming, a company with a robust presence in the Southern United States and the Virgin Islands. “After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, the track was left in ruins. Alongside Southland Gaming, our task is to rebuild and reimagine the space,” he explains. The planned upgrades include enhanced parking, expansive seating areas, and improved horse, jockey, and spectator facilities. These enhancements elevate the experience for all who attend, ensuring the track’s status as a premier entertainment and cultural celebration destination.

The importance of this project extends beyond the physical reconstruction. “Southland Gaming recognizes the track’s value to the community. It’s a landmark, a gathering place, and a source of pride,” Knoepfel reflects. The collaboration with the local government to expedite the track’s reopening for the next Carnival in April 2024 illustrates a shared effort to preserve and enrich the community’s cultural heritage.

The Dynamics of Collaboration

Embarking on a project as culturally significant and complex as the revitalization of the Saint Thomas horse race track requires more than architectural skill and construction acumen. It demands a synergy of expertise, local knowledge, and financial ingenuity. JPK Developments finds itself at the heart of such a collaborative endeavor, working closely with Southland Gaming and a team of specialists dedicated to bringing this vision to life within a constrained budget.

Knoepfel elucidates the nature of this partnership, emphasizing the critical roles essential personnel play. “We have a top-notch project manager, Scott Burnley, a licensed architect on the island, who is in constant communication with Ryan from Southland Gaming,” he shares. This duo’s collaboration is pivotal, navigating the project’s intricacies to ensure that the vision for the track becomes a reality.

The conversation turns toward the delicate balance of creativity and fiscal responsibility that defines their work. “Our creative input is largely channeled into figuring out how to accomplish our goals within the tight budget constraints,” Knoepfel explains. This process involves a continuous dialogue with Ryan and his superiors at Southland Gaming, aiming to preempt financial hurdles that could derail the project.

“Fiscal efficiency is paramount,” Knoepfel affirms, stressing the importance of adhering to the budget without compromising the quality or integrity of the project. This fiscal prudence emphasizes cost-cutting and making informed decisions that reflect a deep understanding of the local construction landscape and the project’s cultural significance.

Knoepfel also highlights the value of local expertise, which JPK Developments brings. “We offer insights into building practices unique to the Virgin Islands, ensuring that the project meets and exceeds local standards,” he notes. This local knowledge is crucial, especially when integrating Southland Gaming’s comprehensive plans with the realities of construction in a distinct geographic and cultural context.

Expanding Horizons: Luxury Developments at Cabrita Point

Alongside revitalizing cultural landmarks, JPK Developments also develops luxury residential spaces. The firm is developing high-end villas on Cabrita Point, adjacent to the prestigious Ritz-Carlton. Knoepfel shares insights into the nature of these developments, underscoring the luxury and durability built into every home.

“We’re constructing luxury villas designed to be as maintenance-free as possible, utilizing poured concrete and concrete roofs, along with impact windows,” he explains. This choice of materials speaks to foresight in design, ensuring that these homes can withstand the region’s harsh climatic conditions while offering the pinnacle of luxury living. The global appeal of these properties, coupled with their suitability for the short-term rental market, reflects a keen understanding of the evolving demands of luxury real estate.

The timeline for these ambitious projects speaks to JPK Developments’ efficiency and organizational prowess. “One of our projects is nearing completion, with new owners set to move in by February. We’re also gearing up to start another five-bedroom villa shortly,” Knoepfel details. This staggered approach to construction allows for continuous progress without compromising the exclusivity and personalized touch that each villa demands.

Delving deeper into the construction logistics, Knoepfel outlines the expected duration for these sophisticated projects. “Each of these homes, ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet, takes about a year to a year and a half to complete,” he says. Building “one and a half homes at a time” in Cabrita Point’s confined yet opulent enclave ensures that each property receives the attention to detail it deserves, distinguishing JPK Developments’ approach from that of mass housing projects.

The price point of these villas, ranging from $3.5 to $6 million, demonstrates the high-end market segment JPK Developments is targeting. This pricing reflects the luxury of the properties, the exclusivity of the location, and the unparalleled quality of construction.

Broadening Services and Sustainable Ventures

JPK Developments is not just evolving in terms of the projects it undertakes. It also offers services, marking a significant directional shift towards becoming a more integrated real estate and construction firm. This expansion includes establishing a full-service brokerage led by Jeff Fetterhoff and a foray into sustainable energy projects.

Knoepfel enthusiastically discusses the new brokerage arm, noting, “Jeff Fetterhoff is steering this part of our business, focusing on the sales of our projects and managing some rental properties as well.” This addition allows JPK Developments to offer a more rounded service to clients, covering the property development lifecycle from conception to sale. While they dabble in owner financing, Knoepfel clarifies, “We’re not a bank, and we tend to avoid owner financing, though we offer it selectively to facilitate ownership for those who dream of owning one of our homes.”

On JPK Developments’ venture into renewable energy, he highlights a successful collaboration with BMR Energy. “This project was a triumph, culminating in a four-megawatt solar facility that now generates a significant portion of the Virgin Islands’ power needs,” Knoepfel proudly states. This move diversifies JPK Developments’ portfolio and aligns with global environmental sustainability trends, positioning the company as a leader in the Virgin Islands’ shift towards greener energy solutions.

In addition to these ventures, Knoepfel provides insight into recent projects involving hotel renovations, specifically at the Mafolie Hotel. “Under new ownership, the Mafolie Hotel is undergoing enhancements to restore its charm as a boutique establishment with stunning views of Charlotte Amalia Harbor,” he explains. These renovations, including the pool deck and other areas, are aimed at rejuvenating the property without expanding its footprint, showcasing JPK Developments’ versatility in handling construction and renovation projects across different sectors.


Reflecting on the Market and Looking Ahead

As the conversation draws to a close, Knoepfel provides a thoughtful overview of the current state of the Virgin Islands’ commercial real estate market, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the previous year’s challenges. He also outlines JPK Developments’ aspirations for the upcoming year, painting a picture of a company deeply embedded in the local community and committed to its economic and structural health.

“The commercial market here hasn’t seen any drastic changes, aside from the marked resurgence of key hotels,” Knoepfel observes, notably the re-opening of significant resorts like Frenchman’s Reef, now under the Westin banner. This resurgence portends progress for the Virgin Islands, a return to form, and a boost to the local economy. Knoepfel’s mention of their involvement in these pivotal projects, including work at smaller boutique hotels like Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, shows JPK Developments’ integral role in this revitalization effort.

Addressing the challenges that have plagued the industry, including supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, Knoepfel notes, “These issues have largely resolved themselves.” This remark reflects a sector on the mend, with smoother operations and a more optimistic outlook.

Looking forward, Knoepfel shares his vision for 2024 with clarity and determination. “Our focus remains on expanding our portfolio of spec homes and exploring opportunities in rental properties and commercial spaces,” he asserts. This strategy aims to diversify JPK Developments’ offerings and contribute to the Virgin Islands’ economic vibrancy.

Central to Knoepfel’s vision is the company’s workforce. “Keeping our team busy, profitable, and able to support their families is paramount,” he states, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between the company’s success and the well-being of its employees. This ethos speaks volumes about JPK Developments’ values and its role as a cornerstone of the local community.

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JPK Developments

What: A leading construction company specializing in residential, commercial construction, and sustainable energy projects.

Where: Virgin Islands



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