The ambitious project intended to revitalize and open up the major cultural centers in the downtown area of Belize City was officially launched today at one of its focal points, the former Government House, now House of Culture. The House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project is co-sponsored by the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and involves not only physical renovations but fostering a sense of pride in the residents of the Old Capital. Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Manuel Heredia Jr. formally introduced the project today.
“…including buildings, urban landscape and space, aquifers and other structures such as the swing bridge. This, as you can imagine, incites the clear mandate, that we have to insure that such historical asset, of regional importance, are maintained, protected and integrated within the development plans of our country. Over the next two years, with close collaboration of the Belize City Council, the National Institute for Culture and History, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, we will be investing approximately $15 Million in downtown Belize city, in the renovation and rehabilitation of this Belize City House of Culture building and facilities, into an urban heritage museum, botanical garden, meeting space and as a result in the development of a premiere culture and tourism destination. We will also work with the City Council in the rehabilitation of the Commercial Center, in the development of a sea side promenade from the Swing Bridge along southern Forth George Street, in the improvement of the pedestrian environment along Regent street and Albert street and in the community engagement and educational programs to promote cultural heritage and cultural tourism in the downtown of Belize City
According to president of NICH Diane Haylock, the project is a response to a seeming past neglect of important properties of Belizean history which have been major cash cows for the City.
“So we thought that we needed to do something that would make more people want to come and visit this house; not just visitors, but Belizeans. For Belizeans to get to know this aspect of our history that perhaps was not well known. Link to that then was also the concern was the house itself, but the house in the environment in wich it was situated, old Belize, old Belize city if we may call it that. One of the things that we saw happening along the way , was the tearing down of some of these old Caribbean Architecture façade houses and as we attempted to intervene in making sure that they were not torn down. we found it was difficult because we found they were challenges in trying to preserve and protect them.
Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley’s City Council has already invested millions across the downtown of Belize City in infrastructure and other elements and he told the gathering this morning that this project will tie these investments into “people power,” giving residents a say in the future development of the City as a tourism destination.
“The staring committee – other stakeholders at the technical level, they have already spoken of ways to engage the community in a very powerful way, so that the project is something that complements what is already going on in the downtown, and enhances it for the benefit of residents and users of the space. I am very pleased to say that the City Council is already thinking about ways that we can put the people structures to insure that this project is something that has sustainability and longevity. That there is an overlay of community support, that there is an overlay of buy-in from community stakeholders, including all the persons gathered in this room today, who would make this project the magic that it was intended. That it is not a physical infrastructure project, that it is not a project that only looks at our physical improvements but it looks at way we engage one another, the way how we relate to space, the way how we understand and express our heritage and the we how we work as a community in the downtown.
The total cost of the project is $15 million and it is expected to last for two years.