A call is being made for a city management structure to help save the capital from further deterioration.
At the same time, chairperson of the Revitalization of Bridgetown Initiative Sharon Christie has expressed concern that the island Could be in danger of losing its UNESCO World Heritage designation if careful attention was not given to maintaining the many historic structures in and around The City.
Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011.
Christie’s calls for action came on the heels of concerns raised recently by senior vice president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddie Abed that the delay in the getting the Pierhead Marina project going was holding back revitalization of Bridgetown.
Christie told Barbados TODAY that having a city management structure in place could bode well for the development of the capital.
“Whatever you call it, whether it is a city manager [or] a mayor, I think what is very important in that structure, and whoever the leader of that structure is, . . . that the city is run as a business,” she suggested.
“It cannot be a political appointment. It has to be an appointment that is there irrespective of elections or anything else.”
Adding that the BCCI could be tasked with appointing someone to the position, Christie said: “The Chamber of Commerce is over 300 years old so you understand it will still be there irrespective of who is Prime Minister or anything else. That continuity is vital to development and growth.”
Christie said when she attended an Inter-American Development Bank conference of mayors in Dallas, Texas last year, Barbados was the only one out of the more than two dozen Caribbean and Latin American countries that did not have a city management structure.
“We were the only one that did not have a financial structure in place to fund development of The City. Different countries and different cities have used different means to fund those initiatives whether it is a portion of your land tax, a portion of your sales tax or whatever . . . We have none of the above, and we were the only people at that conference that were in such a position,” she said.
“You can’t have development if you don’t have management. You can’t have management if you don’t have a structure and an authority to make a difference.”
Pointing out that Government owned many of the historic buildings in Bridgetown, the official said a recent world heritage committee survey pointed to concern that those “historic gems” were left in a state of disrepair.
She said the UNESCO World Heritage designation was a tremendous value from a tourism perspective but Barbados was not taking the best advantage of it, either from a tourism or foreign exchange perspective.
“The other thing that is of great concern is that I am not sure if everybody fully appreciates . . . that UNESCO designation is something you must continuously qualify for. It is not set in stone and if we do things in contravention of why that was awarded, or if we don’t do things that we ought to be doing to ensure that we maintain that designation, we will lose it . . . It is reviewed and it is something that we need to pay attention to,” cautioned Christie.
Singling out the old Empire Theatre on Probyn Street, Christie expressed disappointment that although a proposal was approved since January 2012 to carry out restoration of that building, nothing has been done so far.
“When we award tenders to things of national interest it should have a timeline attached to that award,” she said.
Christie also cautioned that whoever took over the old Globe Cinema should have a timeline in which to carry out redevelopment work at that location.
“There are a number of buildings in [and around] Bridgetown that we are sitting on that are a wealth of foreign exchange and tourism opportunities that are not really being explored properly,” she said, while praising the private sector for taking the lead in organizing a number of tours in The City over the past five years.