PLANNING Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said to revitalise Port of Spain will take time and patience but will be worth it to lift the economy and the nation’s spirit.
She spoke at her ministry’s consultation at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain on Tuesday, Spotlight on Urban Development: The Revitalization of Port of Spain.
She said people identify with a city and weave it into the unfolding stories of their lives, such that the more beautiful a city is the more valued it is and the more intimately its inhabitants bond to it.
“To renew your city, then, is to renew the soul of your country. To heal your capital city is to heal those who inhabit its space. And that's the journey upon which we embark today.”
Robinson-Regis said over the years the capital had lost its allure but this could be restored.
“The pulsating life of the city seemed to fade away ever so slowly.
“As ‘town’ no longer became this magical place to visit, the shopfronts came to be decorated by the homeless and the pavements by evidence of their existence.”
Even at Woodford Square, Baptists and Jehovah Witnesses now no longer vie with snocone and nuts vendors to woo passers-by.
“The sad and yet inescapable truth is that Port of Spain has lost its shine, and the time for renewal and repair is now.”
She recalled the Government’s refurbishing President's House, Stollmeyer's Castle, Whitehall, Mille Fleurs and Queen's Royal College, plus the Red House, having built the Government Plaza and International Waterfront.
“Today we stand on the cusp of a new era in Port of Spain.”
Robinson-Regis said the revitalisation will instil civic pride, reduce vandalism and crime, and create “yet another arrow in the quiver of diversification initiatives.”
It will advance Port of Spain’s image as a 21st-century city, boost local economic viability and provide a quality environment for residents and tourists.
She named five priority areas: traffic management; safety and security; commerce and investment; social development; and residential renewal.
The prerequisites to the city's transformation were cleaning and washing of the city; increasing the police presence; improving lighting; and relocating the homeless.
The plan identifies catalyst projects to be done by public private partnerships (PPP.)
These are developments at Memorial Plaza, Salvatori Building Site, Piccadilly Street, PowerGen Site, City Gate and Mucurapo Foreshore plus an inner city transit system in collaboration with the Dutch Government.
“In a culture imbued with an insatiable desire for quick returns, the idea of urban renewal might take longer than most people hope.” Urging patience and continuity, she was sure now was the right time for revitalisation.
She vowed to improve the city’s functionality, aesthetics and security to make it a national, cultural, recreational, leisure, commercial and business centre, and overall 24/7 activity centre.
“I am absolutely convinced that the Port of Spain we deserve is well within our reach.”