Businessmen query Port of Spain beautification project

Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants' Association
Gregory Aboud, president of the Downtown Owners and Merchants' Association

PLANS by councillor Abena Hartley of the Port of Spain City Council (PoSCC) to beautify the capital were queried by at least two businessmen at a PoSCC business meeting on Wednesday at City Hall. They feared such efforts could be undermined by brazen acts of crime which would be a deterrent to the general public.

Other stakeholders voiced concerns about shooting incidents, rampant vagrancy and theft.

Hartley asked the city's business community to help uplift the city by measures such as painting the fronts or façades of their business places, better lighting and improving their shop signage.

While Port of Spain was once the jewel of the region, has a rich history and was still traversed by thousands of people daily, she lamented that in recent times it has not been living up to its standard. But she believed the city was not beyond salvation.

"We need to bring it back, modernise it, make it aesthetically pleasing."

Hartley proposed a business façade programme to be run on a phased, block-by-block basis, starting with an area bounded by Charlotte and Richmond Streets, and Queen Street and Independence Square respectively.

But she cautioned, "We can't do it alone. We invited the business community."

Mayor Joel Martinez invited guests to look outside to Woodford Square.

"You see how beautiful the city is? The city of Port of Spain doesn't feel congested. It's breezy, it's nice. There are parks, there is the square."

Admitting to garbage piles at places such as Piccadilly Street and Duke Street, he urged all to see beauty beyond such faults.

"Port of Spain is Trinidad and Tobago's calling card. We should be tremendously proud of what we have and want to preserve it. We need your help."

Urging all to work together so all could look good, Martinez quipped, "If I fix one side of my face and not the other side, you will notice."

Saying only the icons who are publicly commemorated were Aldwyn "Kitchener" Roberts and Slinger "Sparrow" Francisco, plus cricketer Brian Lara, Martinez proposed, "We need a walk of fame."

Envisioning uplifting local music publicly broadcast on the Brian Lara Promenade and a periodic parade of policemen and pupils participating in the girl guides, the mayor effused, "You'll see the revitalisation come alive!"

Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon acknowledged the current woes of local businessmen owing to the economic fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, but supported the proposals and offered to be a conduit to Cabinet.

A representative of the city's engineer's department proposed that unsightly overhead electricity/utility cables in areas such as Charlotte Street should be relocated underground to help improve the city's aesthetic. Dianne Hendrickson (calypsonian Lady Wonder), who is manager of the New City Mall, welcomed the beautification proposals, saying her mall's new façade "looks gorgeous."

Michele Constantine, manager of Nicholas Towers, supported the initiative, but lamented that her staff must regularly wash away faeces left by vagrants and that someone had stolen the cables serving newly-installed air conditioning units.

DOMA head Gregory Aboud related installing burglarproofing to keep out thieves, only for this itself to be stolen for sale as scrap metal.

He recalled recently leaving work only to later learn of a man being shot soon afterwards near to where he had been.

However Aboud felt the beautification project could yield good results, but also asked for drains and potholes to be fixed first, to encourage business owners to paint their premises.

But businessman Ronald Hadeed of Bradford Trading Ltd and Will Chan of the store, Chan, voiced their strong concerns.

Hadeed said people's concerns over crime (including fear for their lives and recollections of purse-snatching) and parking meant the beautification exercise would only succeed in attracting back shoppers if accompanied by a huge public relations programme that portrayed the capital as a beautiful and safe city.

Chan said even if business owners spend money to beautify their premises, many customers would opt to pay higher prices to shop at out-of-town malls to ensure their safety and peace of mind.

"However nice things may look, if something bad might happen to you, I'm not going to come back into Port of Spain."

Hartley promised to help businesses in the beautification project with their designs, approvals and demolition/rehabilitation costs, plus the provision of labour.


"Businessmen query Port of Spain beautification project"

More in this section