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$20m to fix Speightstown

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

$20m to fix Speightstown

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GOVERNMENT IS SUPPORTING a recommendation for up to $20 million to be invested in Speightstown so it can be transformed into a heritage centre.

The proposal is one of several contained in a series of reports forming the current administration’s much-touted Tourism Master Plan 2014-2023. They were prepared by Environment Planning Group Inc. in association with HLA Consultants and have already been “reviewed and approved” by the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport.

The St Peter town’s rejuvenation was singled out as one of the “urgent actions” deemed as a necessary response to the “current economic situation and to increase visitor arrivals and visitor spend”.

According to the documents: “Speightstown needs rejuvenation. Its unique character is based on an architectural heritage dating from colonial times. Many of the town’s buildings have declined over the last two to three decades due to neglect and lack of funding for maintenance. The realignment of the main highway has led to a reduction in visitor traffic through the town centre; Arlington House, now a museum, is the only building which has been restored recently.”

As a result, the report said, there was a need to “create incentives for owners of private properties through provisions of the Tourism Development Act and other tax concessions; consider public/private sector partnerships; restore the public bus service in Speightstown and create a shuttle loop from the town’s bus terminal; [and] redevelop/refurbish the Old Post Office building as a creative arts centre and information hub for cultural heritage activities”.

In addition to repairing the jetty, “select other prime areas in need of refurbishment and generate cost estimates; install new street lighting and enhance signage showing heritage sites and other attractions; [and] improve safety and security for pedestrians by further developing streetscape and sidewalks”.

Based on the proposal all of this work has a targeted completion date of 2022. The Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. would be the lead agency, working with the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport and Barbados National Trust.

The expected outcome was “increased visitor numbers; enhanced physical environs and preservation of architectural heritage; improved facilities for commercial and retail services; accommodation for street vendors; increase in commercial activity for all businesses; [and] increase in economic activity will benefit surrounding communities”.

Giving Speightstown more attention was part of the wider plan to “improve and enhance the inventory of built heritage attractions and their associated services to entice visitor interest and promote increase visitor spending”.

“The major challenge for further developments in this historic town includes funding mechanisms and enhanced marketing of Speightstown. Port Ferdinand and Port St Charles marinas near Speightstown have introduced an added tourism dimension to the community. With the potential to travel via ferry from the Bridgetown Port to Speightstown, the limitations created by the distance from the Port to Speightstown would be reduced,” the report added.

There is also an opportunity to develop the indigenous handicraft sector and provide improved vending locations to expand the scope of facilities beyond Pelican Village.”