The developers of the Hyatt Ziva Resort now have in their hands a three-page document from social activist David Comissiong, outlining three major areas of concern regarding construction of the 18-storey building on Bay Street, The City.
Comissiong, who has been at the forefront of challenges against erection of the US$175 million hotel, submitted the document to the directors of Visions Developers Inc., the local company behind the project, following his contribution at a public presentation of the preliminary architectural designs at Copacabana Bar & Restaurant on Bay Street last evening.
The document entitled Questions for the Developers of the Hyatt Hotel, included his concern about possible damage to the “vernacular” architectural style of buildings along Bay Street as defined in the Physical Development Plan of Barbados which outlines the stipulated structure of the buildings along that corridor .
That section states: “New development should build upon the streetscape character by adopting urban design principles which entail high quality design in a manner which respects and supports the vernacular architectural styles exhibited on Bay Street in buildings such as the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited and Government Headquarters.”
The section went on to say that such development must create an improved public realm and pedestrian environment.
“The questions that therefore arise and that require answers are as follows: “Is the design of this Hyatt Hotel a design that respects and supports the vernacular architectural styles exhibited in such Bay Street buildings as the Barbados Light and Power building or Government Headquarters building?”
Insisting that his questions were not rhetorical, the social activist and lawyer, who said he was making his presentation as a citizen and not as Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, asked the developers to ponder on the potential damage they would cause if the current design did not comply with the Physical Development Plan’s stipulation.
“And if it does not, wouldn’t the construction of this Hyatt Hotel as currently designed, not constitute a breach of the Physical Development Plan of Barbados and do severe damage to the unique vernacular architectural style of the Bay Street corridor?” he asked.
Comissiong is also worried about the possible damage to the historic Bethel Methodist Church, a listed building located directly across the road from the site of the resort.
He again referred to the plan which discourages development adjacent to or in the vicinity of a listed building because such development could have a major adverse impact on the setting of the historic building.
Describing the current Hyatt design as a characterless, sterile, block-like, modern structure, the attorney is asking the developers if they did not think the setting of the church would be adversely affected; that its 18-storey height would shroud the church in shadow and dwarf and visually dominate and overshadow it.
“If any of this is the case, shouldn’t such a construction be discouraged. Doesn’t the Physical Development Plan stipulate that such a construction be discouraged?” Comissiong queried.
He also drew the developers’ attention to the likelihood of Barbados losing its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation due to “visual disruption” that may be caused by building a structure of inappropriate size, height or appearance in Bay Street, a heritage site.
Comissiong has therefore asked developers Mark Maloney and James Edghill if the local World Heritage Committee been consulted; and if it has, did they approve of the planned construction within the historic site.
“Did Government’s Environmental Impact Assessment panel stipulate that you – the developer – were required to have a Heritage Impact Study done by a credible heritage expert with experience in the area of UNESCO World Heritage designations?”
His final question highlighted the potential danger to the adjoining beach.
Again drawing from the Physical Development Plan he said : “In considering applications for abutting the Bay Street/Highway 7 corridor, development shall generally step down in height to provide an appropriate transition to the lower density residential uses behind.
“In consideration of applications for development on the coastal side of the corridor, every effort shall be made to protect, maintain and enhance pedestrian access and views to the beach in accordance with Section 2.5.4,” Comissiong quoted.
With this in mind, he has asked the developers to consider whether the present design of the hotel adheres to an appropriate transition to the residential houses in Bay Street; if it did not unduly inhibit pedestrian or people’s access to the beach and if construction would not destroy the character of the beach and turn it into an “alien” zone.
“In other words, isn’t there a danger of this beach being transformed into one of your typical WestCoast beaches – beaches that native Barbadians feel no longer belong to them,” the social activist concluded by asking.