Councilor Abena Hartley of the Port of Spain City Council (PoSCC) plans to beautify the capital were questioned by at least two businessmen during a PoSCC business meeting Wednesday at City Hall. They feared that these efforts would be undermined by brazen criminal acts that would have a chilling effect on the general public.
Other stakeholders have expressed concerns about shootings, rampant vagrancy and theft.
Hartley asked the city’s business community to help elevate the city through measures such as painting the fronts or facades of their places of business, better lighting and improving the signage of their stores .
While Port of Spain was once the jewel of the region, has a rich history and was still passed through by thousands of people daily, she lamented that in recent times it has failed to live up to its standards. But she believed the city was not beyond salvation.
“We have to bring it back, modernize it, make it aesthetic.”
Hartley proposed a commercial frontage program to be carried out gradually, block by block, beginning with an area bounded respectively by Charlotte and Richmond Streets, and Queen Street and Independence Square.
But she warned: “We can’t do it alone. We invited the business community.
Mayor Joel Martinez invited guests to watch outside Woodford Square.
“See how beautiful the city is? The city of Port of Spain doesn’t look congested. There’s a breeze, it’s nice. There are parks, there’s space.”
Admitting heaps of rubbish in places such as Piccadilly Street and Duke Street, he urged everyone to see the beauty beyond those flaws.
“Port of Spain is Trinidad and Tobago’s calling card. We should be extremely proud of what we have and want to preserve it. We need your help.
Urging everyone to work together to make everything look good, Martinez joked, “If I fix one side of my face and not the other side, you’ll notice.”
Saying that the only icons who are publicly memorialized were Aldwyn “Kitchener” Roberts and Slinger “Sparrow” Francisco, as well as cricketer Brian Lara, Martinez offered, “We need a path to glory.”
Envisioning uplifting local music played publicly on the Brian Lara Parkway and a periodic parade of police officers and students participating in the Girl Guides, the Mayor exclaimed, “You will see the revitalization come to life!”
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon acknowledged the current woes of local businesspeople due to the economic fallout from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, but backed the proposals and proposed d to be a relay to the Cabinet.
A representative from the city’s engineering department proposed that unsightly overhead power cables in areas such as Charlotte Street be moved underground to help improve the aesthetics of the city. Dianne Hendrickson (Calypsonian Lady Wonder), who is manager of the New City Mall, welcomed the beautification proposals, saying her mall’s new facade “looks beautiful”.
Michele Constantine, director of Nicholas Towers, supported the initiative, but lamented that her staff regularly had to wash up the droppings left by vagrants and that someone had stolen the cables serving the newly installed air-conditioning units.
DOMA chief Gregory Aboud recounted installing a burglar-proof system to keep thieves out, only to have it itself stolen to be sold as scrap metal.
He remembers recently quitting his job only to learn later that a man had been shot shortly afterwards near where he was.
However, Aboud felt that the beautification project could yield good results, but also called 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, expressed serious concerns.
Hadeed said people’s concerns about crime (including fear for their lives and purse theft memorabilia) and parking meant the beautification exercise would only succeed in attracting shoppers if it was accompanied by a huge public relations program that portrayed the capital as a beautiful and safe city. .
Chan said that even though business owners spend money to spruce up their premises, many customers would choose to pay higher prices to shop at out-of-town malls to ensure their safety. and their peace of mind.
“As nice as things look, if anything bad can happen to you, I won’t be coming back to Port of Spain.”
Hartley promised to help the beautification project companies with their designs, approvals and demolition/rehabilitation costs, as well as the supply of labour.