Restoration work on the old Empire Theatre will begin “very early” next year.
This assurance was given by Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth Stephen Lashley, who noted that the special task force set up to oversee the process had already began its assessment.
Lashley made the comments during the official launch of the publication Bridgetown And Its Garrison Map And City Guide at the Waterfront café yesterday.
Acknowledging that there were a number of historic buildings across the island that needed to be preserved, Lashley admitted that enough attention had not been given to them over the years.
“And one of those properties of course is the Empire Theatre building which we have been working on steadfastly, and I believe that very early in the new year we should be seeing the commencement of the restoration of that particular building,” he said.
When pressed for a definite start date or the cost that would be associated with the restoration work, Lashely declined to say, but told reporters the developers were awaiting “a number of approvals from the Town and [Country] Planning Department”.
“I know that the town planner is looking at the final stages things to be approved,” he said. “A task force has been set up with that process of raising money and they are in the process of doing that. They are very hard at work looking at avenues for funds both philanthropic and other funds as well. 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,” added Lashley.
A consortium of companies, led by Preconco Limited, has taken the initiative to carry out the restoration of the Empire Theatre that was built in 1922 and closed in the 1970s.
When contacted managing director of Preconco Limited, Mark Maloney, confirmed work would begin early 2014 but declined to give an estimated date.
Last January, Lashley said Cabinet had approved a $10 million proposal to turn the Empire into a 290-seat theatre, a craft brewery manufacturing Barbadian beer and also a visitor centre and small museum.