A strong plea is going out to Government to put the derelict buildings in and around Bridgetown to good use sooner rather than later.
Chairperson of The Revitalization of Bridgetown Initiative, Sharon Christie, has expressed concern that despite many years of talk, there is still very little action in putting some buildings back into operation. Of particular concern is the old Empire Theatre in Probyn Street,
From as far back as 1997, there have been failed attempts to restore the historic building. However, in January 2013, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley said Cabinet had approved a $10 million proposal to refurbish the Empire into a 290-seat theatre, a craft brewery manufacturing Barbadian beer, a visitors’ centre and small museum.
As recently as December last year Lashley gave the assurance that restoration on the old Empire site would begin “early” this year. However, Christie told Barbados TODAY, she is questioning why there has still been no action.
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 the early 1922 and closed in the 1970s.
“We have a lot of derelict historic buildings, the Empire Theatre site is a perfect example. I have read in the Press –– it must be going on two years now –– that somebody had been awarded the contract to use that space. It looks the same to me as it did two years ago . . . . Therefore, who was given it? What rights were they given? Who were they given it by and why is nothing happening?” enquired Christie.
“I keep hearing various people saying ‘soon’. Their definition of soon and mine is obviously different.”
Christie, an advocate for positive change in The City, gave her suggestion on what could be done with a number of the historic buildings in and around Bridgetown And Its Historic Garrison.
“If it means that the space is offered on a 20-year lease or a 30-year lease at peppercorn rent to a private sector business who demonstrates that they are going to generate revenue for the Government and foreign exchange for the country, that is better than them sitting down doing nothing at this time.
“If it can’t command what the Government thinks is a suitable sales price at this stage, if it can’t command what they consider market rate at this stage, but it can generate income to the public purse and foreign exchange for the country, to me that makes better sense than growing weeds and catching rats,” she said.
Saying the island was well positioned and had one of the most beautiful small cities in the world, Christie said it was about time Barbados started using it to Barbados’ advantage.
“Our Parliament this year celebrated 375 years. We have one of two synagogues of that ilk in the Western Hemisphere. We have either the only or the second only screw dock anywhere in the world. We are a UNESCO-designated heritage site. All of that we have going for us; let us use it,” she insisted.