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After years of promising to do something to improve the state of East Port-of-Spain, the area is expected to finally undergo a significant facelift starting early next year.

And the project is expected to be completed by 2024.

The East Port-of-Spain Urban Regeneration Project is part of an overall plan to revitalise the capital city.

The project spans two acres along lower Piccadilly and Besson Streets.

The East Port-of-Spain Urban Regeneration Project is intended to create a mixed-use development in the capital.

It will include a housing complex, a micro-industrial park and an urban agricultural space.

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis stated that Government construction activities comprising the Port-of-Spain Revitalisation Project aim to hire in the region of at least 1000 persons in the short to medium term.

“This estimate is inclusive of projects which were already underway before the most recent closure as a result of COVID-19, as well as new projects in early stages of planning and implementation,” Robinson-Regis stated.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Penelope Beckles said the project was conceived and initiated in 2017 by the Office of the Prime Minister in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and key agencies namely the Housing Development Corporation, the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT) and the East Port-of-Spain Development Company Ltd.

Beckles said Cabinet approved the project in early 2019.

“The aim of this project is to reinvigorate East Port-of-Spain as part of the master plan to revitalise the city of Port-of-Spain,” Beckles said.

“The importance of this undertaking is to ensure that as our capital city transitions into a 21st-century city, East Port-of-Spain is not left behind,” she said.

Beckles added the only argument to that is that the proposed project may have been “too long in coming.”

“But now it is finally here and we should endeavour to see it become a reality because the benefits will far outweigh any cost that will be experienced,” she explained.

Beckles said Government’s vision is “to create a sustainable community utilising a mixed development concept which caters to the needs of residents.”

She said this is in keeping with the country’s National Development Strategy (Vision 2030) and the UN’s New Urban Agenda, whereby we can build capacity and improve the economic viability of the area to foster a more inclusive, safer, more sustainable and resilient urban community.

“This project therefore will act as a catalyst for positive change within the area,” she said.

HDC’s senior manager of urban planning Nigel Barrow said one of the concerns that has been raised by residents is that they may be displaced to cater for progress.

“The question always is: do we have to move out of the city? Do we have to move out of our homes?

“And the simple answer is no. In this first phase that we are proposing, no one will have to be relocated at this point.”

Barrow said the project is expected to start in the first quarter of next year and completed in 24 to 30 months.

“The idea is that in providing additional housing units within the area the possibility of relocating persons within Piccadilly and Besson Street to the newly developed Piccadilly Street Development project to that residential site that is a possible relocation strategy that will then allow for further development of alternative areas from where those persons will have resided before,” Barrow said.

UDeCOTT stated that East Port-of-Spain has the potential to serve as an attractive residential, commercial and cultural area in close proximity to the Central Business District.

“However, it presently lacks public amenities and is considered to be unsafe by many residents and visitors,” UDeCOTT stated.

“The establishment of a pedestrian and biking corridor along the St Ann’s River (East Dry River), as well as improvements in the natural and built environment may create the conditions necessary for the re-emergence of a secure, healthy residential area with a rich cultural history. This would also require that Riverside Plaza and other commercial sites be better integrated with the downtown core,” it stated.

HDC is proposing the development of 3,000 residential family units in East Port-of-Spain East with related amenities.

“The project will include natural areas along the St Ann’s River for the development of a pedestrian and biking corridor, cultural centres integrating the Port City, training centres and simulation facilities, recreational areas and civic spaces, and warehousing and light manufacturing. It is envisioned that transportation will be provided by a tram/light rail system,” UDeCOTT stated.

HDC’s managing director Jayselle McFarlane said a price for the proposed housing has not been determined as yet.

“Currently we have no prices for these units. We are in the consultation stage and we will try to ascertain what are the uses and what the residents would like to have. The proposed project comprises of three bedrooms, two, and one-bedroom units. And after our consultation, we will then engage the architects and go through the tender procedure and then the cost will be determined. So at this point, there is no cost to be placed on any of the units,” she said.

“Over the past few decades, a number of infrastructural projects were spearheaded by the HDC in this area, the most recent being the Clifton Tower community, however, I am sure many of you would agree that there needs to be a plan for the holistic development of East Port-of-Spain,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane said the project “will enhance and rehabilitate this part of the city, improve the façade and living conditions of those who desire to live in this area and is expected to encourage entrepreneurship, employment opportunities and economic growth.”

“The city of Port of Spain has developed in so many areas without East Port-of-Spain being developed properly. This council spent a lot of time looking at the development of East Port-of-Spain and how we could rejuvenate that area and bring people back to the city of East Port of Spain, particularly because it is the birth place of Canboulay, the steel pan and Carnival,” Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez said.

“The people of East Port-of-Spain are culturally rich and they are the ones that have really placed Carnival on the map of T&T and we have neglected those people to some extent. When you drive along east Piccadilly Street, you realise how beautiful the space is. It is so rich and beautiful. I think the Port-of-Spain Corporation has always felt that we can play a major part in the development of East Port-of-Spain,” he said.