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Redefining our City: A master plan for Kingstown

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Fri, Oct 28. 2011

by Louise Mitchell-Joseph
Chairperson SVG National Trust

At the time of our independence, while we are reflecting on our history and contemplating our future, the National Trust has embarked on an ambitious project to write a blueprint for the development of Historic Kingstown.{{more}}

The Project, which is a partnership between the National Trust and all stakeholders of Kingstown, entitled “Saving Historic Kingstown”, is aimed at creating a Master Plan for our capital city. The Plan will be a blueprint for how the city should be developed over the next fifty years, its primary aim being to improve the ambience and function of the city. The focus on preserving the city’s historical buildings and creating green spaces offers an alternative to the present disorderliness and rapid loss of charm and character that presently affects our capital. The National Trust is not opposed to contemporary architecture, but insists that it take into consideration the historic environs in which it is situated.

The Master Plan will seek to highlight and preserve the tangible cultural heritage of Kingstown found in our buildings, monuments, artefacts and vernacular landmarks. It will seek to revive our capital city as a viable source of the collective identity of Vincentians. Our tangible heritage, like our intangible heritage (customs and traditions), mirrors who we are as a people. Every historic building that is torn down constitutes the erasure of our past and a silencing of the memories associated with it. The impact of such deconstruction diminishes the sense of identity of Vincentians giving way to a vacuum of spirit.

It is the firm belief of the National Trust that our cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, is a key component on which tourism is built, and should be recognized as such by our Government and people.

Traditional Kingstown, with its wooden houses, cobblestone streets, and arched colonnades possesses a lot of charm. Every year, more and more traces of this charm are demolished and replaced with cold concrete, with architectural designs that are not in keeping with our natural environment, nor with our social fabric. The new buildings represent a reverence of all things foreign that have little relevance to Caribbean life.

The National Trust held its first consultation on developing the Master Plan recently, bringing together architects, technical persons, policy makers, town dwellers and artists, all of whom pledged to volunteer their resources to this great project.

The Master Plan will seek to highlight and preserve the aspects of architecture that are unique to Kingstown such as the arches over cobblestone streets. It will examine the layers of information that constitute the way in which the city is used by its inhabitants and workers, and use this information to inform the design of the Master Plan. Its emphasis on re-creating green spaces will include the restoration of the beach at Rose Place; encouraging the restoration (adaptation and re-use) of old buildings; building better infrastructure for pedestrians (such as sidewalks); energy efficient lighting and refurbishing landmarks (such as the Steps at Rose Place).

The vision that the National Trust brings to the “Saving Historic Kingstown” project builds on its commitment to legal protection for our tangible heritage by designating historic buildings and sites. To this end it has to date designated the following buildings and sites as Protected National Heritage:

The Carnegie Old Public Library Building;
The Botanic Gardens;
The Peace Memorial Hall;
Grimble Hall, Girls’ High School;
The House of Assembly and Court House;
Fort Charlotte; St. George’s Cathedral;
The Police Headquarters;
The Layou Petroglyph.

There are two active projects in and around Kingstown that complement the Save Historic Kingstown initiative. These are the restoration of the ‘draw’ bridge at Fort Charlotte and the restoration of the grounds of the Court House, with the kind support of the legal fraternity. Also, initial discussions have revealed that Rose Place has been identified as a treasure of Kingstown, having as it does the greatest amount of traditional architecture still intact. As such creating a renaissance of Rose Place will be a goal sought.

Finally, the intended impact of developing and implementing a Master Plan for the city includes:

(1) Improving the Quality of Life of Town Dwellers/Users

(2) Fostering a stronger Vincentian identity and pride

(3) Preserving the tangible cultural heritage of Vincentians as expressed in Kingstown

(4) Making the city more attractive to Vincentians and visitors

(5) Reducing crime

(6) Attracting investment into the city

The National Trust will be holding public consultations in and around Kingstown with stakeholders in upcoming months.

For persons interested in contributing to this initiative please contact the National Trust at 451 2921 or email: [email protected]

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