Empire restoration to begin next year
IT?SHOULD?be a done deal this time.
Government says plans are on stream to start restoration work early next year on the Empire Theatre, which has been closed for nearly 30 years.
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley told the MIDWEEK NATION it would be a joint public/ private sector initiative with a consortium of companies involved in the project and the restoration would not cost Government a cent.
“The Government is not expending any money on it. It is really going to be a private sector company that has come on board that will be financing. What we will have out of the Empire is a state-of-the-art cultural theatre for the creative sector, but that is the philanthrophic give-back that the developer will give.
“We are providing a lease arrangement for the company to transform the theatre but the Government itself is not putting any money into that project,” he said.
Lashley referred to the Empire Theatre building as an “iconic structure”.
“I think it is the only remaining such theatre in this part of the world and it adds to what we want to do in terms of bringing to life the heritage of Bridgetown through the bill heritage. Once that particular property is restored, a lot of that area around the Empire will be transformed literally,” said the minister, adding he was confident that restoration work could start early next year.
He also said that the external look of the building would not be changed.
“We would have worked closely with the developer through the Barbados World Heritage Committee to ensure that the restored project meets the requirements of the world heritage arrangements and really what you have is a restoration of an iconic structure.”
He said that with so many other properties around, he would like to see more private sector partners come on board.
“I think it is a beginning and a good gesture by the developers to come forward and do this and equally, the opportunity is there for other developers to come and assist with the restoration of other structures in Bridgetown.”
In relation to the financing of such buildings, Lashley said a task force had been established to raise monies and was hard at work seeking avenues for funds, both philanthropic and otherwise.
“As you can appreciate, the restoration of our structures will be a very expensive undertaking but we are determined to systematically approach that and each project we are going to be trying to work with them on,” he said.
The Empire Theatre, which has been in a state of disrepair for the last three decades, closed its doors to movie-goers in 1984, but its importance has been enhanced by the recent designation of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (MK)