$10m tag to restore Empire
THE EMPIRE THEATRE is set to be restored, at a cost of BDS$10 million, by a group of business investors led by Preconco Limited.
Ordinary Barbadians will also have the opportunity to purchase shares in the initiative.
Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley said yesterday that Cabinet approved the proposal, one of three submitted, to turn the Empire into a 290-seat theatre, a craft brewery manufacturing Barbadian beer and also a visitor centre and small museum.
He said that because of limited access to funding by Government for the restoration of heritage structures, the project was opened to the private sector, with the public being given the opportunity to have a stake in the initiative as rum shop owners and to own shares in the brewery.
Lashley disclosed that none of the cost of restoration would be borne by Government, although the facility would be under a 25-year lease and the theatre, which will function separately from the brewery, would be Government-controlled through the Ministry of Culture.
He said work would begin when the approvals were granted by the Town and Country Planning Department.
“It would be extremely difficult for the Empire Theatre to be sustainable if it operated solely as a theatre, [so] the proposal is that the centre and craft brewery will function jointly to subsidize the theatre and assist in its marketing,” Lashley said.
Lashley said that it was important to put infrastructure in place to ensure cultural expression, the economic and social potential of which should be exploited through the provision of appropriate infrastructure.
It was in the interest of Government, too, to ensure that the Empire as a building of historic interest was preserved since it fell within Historic Bridgetown And Its Garrison, the minister said, and the proposals would therefore meet the new World Heritage requirements.
The minister also said that a number of historic properties had fallen into disrepair and the Cabinet recently approved the establishment of a task force to work with the Government to source funding and opportunities to restore buildings. (LK)