Businessman Derek Chin believes the Government’s plan to revitalise Port of Spain could be a pipe dream.
Chin—the owner of the MovieTowne cineplexes—said ten years ago he had the vision to create a mega-project called “Streets of the World” at Invaders Bay in Port of Spain, which would have boosted tourism and employment in Trinidad and Tobago.
In a phone interview with the Express yesterday, he said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s talk about revitalisation of the capital city was commendable, but it could be another pipe dream.
He said if governments had been serious about developing the country, then “Streets of the World” would have been a reality today.
“I had people who were willing to come and be involved in it and everything fell apart and I went with the money and built what I did in Guyana. That’s why Guyana got a MovieTowne,” Chin, who was born in Guyana, said.
He said he could not pay $120 million for ten acres of land.
“If I am going to invest $500 million-plus, then you are going to have to give me something. Most governments in other countries would offer you land with 50- to 100-year leases where you do not have to pay too much money per month and exchange that for a project,” he said.
Chin said he tendered twice for the project in Trinidad and received no positive response.
Chin said for the private sector to invest, money incentives are needed.
Government could offer State land to the private sector to develop projects, he suggested.
“(City revitalisation) is a little bit of a pipe dream and some people have said that already. I think there is need for a lot more consultation,” he said.
“Streets of the World” could have been a tourism magnet and also an avenue to showcase the country’s rich history and culture, Chin argued.
“I read now about the calypsonians wanting to have a museum for Sparrow and others and I had this plan for a wax museum for all our sportsmen and all our musicians.
“I had even spoken to Merlin Entertainment in London. It was a project that would have been the Epcot (theme park) of the Caribbean,” he said.
He said talk of revitalisation of the city did not create a desire or want in people to visit.
“Do you see a reason for people to come up Port of Spain where they replace Salvatori (building) and put up a skyscraper office complex?” he asked.
He said there might be new buildings, but that wasn’t true revitalisation which would see people coming or revenue being generated.
He said “Streets of the World” would have been a melting pot of all different cultures, and Carnival would have been showcased.
He envisioned horse rides along cobbled stone streets, a hotel and aquarium as part of the project.
The “Streets of the World” plan included themes from countries that created the culture of the twin-island T&T.
From East Indian to Middle Eastern and African, to European and Asian, these major cultural influences would have been represented in eight connecting streets, he recalled.
The project would also have portrayed a Carnival Street with a themed museum.
Lee Sing: Step in right
direction, but make PoS safe
Former Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing said yesterday the proposed revitalisation of Port of Spain was a step in the right direction.
But crime in the city of 3,300 acres must be dealt with.
Lee Sing told the Express he was excited when he heard the Prime Minister speaking about the plan at the Hyatt Regency hotel on Monday, and that something was finally going to be done to uplift the capital city.
“More importantly, the Government has to make Port of Spain safe, and getting to that point means that something needs to be done about East Port of Spain, especially.
“I did not see that section of the city mentioned in the proposed plan, and that needs to be given serious consideration for citizens to feel safe once again.”
Rowley called on the private sector to be part of the revitalisation plan.
Responding to this, Lee Sing said the Prime Minister “should put his money where his mouth is” and help get the project off the ground.
Lee Sing nonetheless praised Rowley for championing the development plan.
“He rehabilitated the Red House, the Central Library, Queen’s Royal College, Mille Fleurs, Killarney (Stollmeyer’s Castle), Whitehall and the old Ministry of Agriculture and President’s House.”
Lee Sing recalled that when he was in office the first set of documents he was asked to sign off on involved payment to a planner who developed a project to develop the city that he was never in a position to look at because much of the planning had been taken over by the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT).
Lee Sing said he signed off on it reluctantly and paid the contractor for the plan which was added to another stack of plans that have probably dry-rotted by now.
He said the issue of street dwellers in the capital city was an easy fix, but one that required the Government and the Opposition to agree on amending certain laws.
For example, if a drug addict is brought before the court on three successive occasions, within a certain time frame, the magistrate should be able to send that person to compulsory drug rehabilitation in a State programme, Lee Sing suggested.
—additional reporting by Andrea Perez-Sobers