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Saturday 18 August 2018
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A better Port of Spain

THE DECISION taken on Wednesday to shut down the Charlotte Street Heritage Route Market was not a surprise to anyone who had been looking on at developments since the street was cleared a few weeks ago, ostensibly for the purposes of effecting infrastructure repairs.

The benefits of closure have been clear for all to see. Traffic has flowed more smoothly. The street is less unsightly and more hygienic. Pedestrians can walk unimpeded on the pavements. And businesses no longer have to contend with blockages to their points of egress.

So when the time came to decide the fate of the market on Wednesday at City Hall, there was something of an aura of inevitability to the eventual decision taken.

So much so that it was a forgone conclusion in the minds of many from the beginning that the market would never return.

Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez and the corporation have made a bold decision that is well within their rights. While the degree of consultation with and notice to vendors fell woefully short, there is no reason why that consultation cannot now take place as the city looks to come up with a better solution.

On balance, we feel the mayor has acted in the interest of the public as a whole, not just one group. His move, assuming it is to be supported with a wider, comprehensive plan of urban renewal, could help bring the central business district back to life.

All over the city today, there are signs a better Port-of-Spain is within reach. The Government Campus Plaza area, for instance, has become an energetic area of urban activity.

And by this we refer not to the mere presence of skyscrapers but to surrounding amenities such as leisurely eating zones, shops and restaurants catering to the needs of city dwellers.

There is also construction work apace at key areas.

On the other hand, there are still many open sores. Plans to provide appropriate shelters for street dwellers seem to be delayed, there are infrastructure issues, illegal structures are all over the city, pollution levels are high, public parks are derelict, there is inadequate parking, and safety and sanitation remain live issues.

The market’s closure addresses the need to find a safer, neater solution when it comes to the designation of our urban land use. But there must also be incorporation of heritage districts such as Woodford Square.

Unless Martinez’s move to close the market is accompanied by measures to bolster necessary supporting facilities, then it will not achieve the stated goal of bringing the city back to life.


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