February 15, 2013


Fri Feb 15, 2013

Going to town is not as pleasant as it once was. The traffic is congested. Parking is neither easy nor convenient. Vendors have taken over the sidewalks. There is too little greenery and open space. With many more tall buildings than there used to be, it can sometimes get very hot. This is all a far cry from the more leisurely fifties and sixties.{{more}} Then, two-storey houses, stone below and wood above, predominated. Galleries were very much in evidence.
The age of the concrete box had not yet arrived. The Iron Man was prominent. There were breadfruit and lime trees in many yards. The waterfront had not yet been reclaimed. The town was cute and pretty. Let us be honest, today it is not quite the same. All is not lost. The opening of the new airport, Argyle, will release sixty acres of land at the old, Arnos Vale. As luck would have it, this is adjacent to Kingstown and a new city is to be built there.

Through the Mustique Company, the Government has got an international firm of leading architects, Diamond and Schmitt, to prepare the plan.

We often hear how the Mustique Company exploits SVG. Much less known is the variety of ways in which Mustique assists us. The Mustique Charitable Trust is engaged in many projects here, ranging from housing to scholarships. One of its leading figures is Brian Alexander, former CEO of Mustique and now an Ambassador at large for SVG. Last Christmas, at an event at Christies, the great London Auction House, they raised a sizeable sum to help fund their activities. Individuals also do their bit. The SVG National Trust has a fund to help meet its expenses. Much of the money comes from individual donors in Mustique. The main one is from Canada. Canadians have also been involved in other activities. One got a colleague to set up Grenadine Alliance Airways. Then there is Jack Diamond.

Jack Diamond, a house owner in Mustique for the last 20 years, comes with impressive credentials. He is the founder of the firm, Diamond and Schmitt, architects with a very wide international practice. He has degrees not only in architecture, but also in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford. He set up the Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto and is holder both of the Order of Canada and of Ontario. He has long wanted to do a design for SVG. It was going to be either the terminal building at Argyle or the new Kingstown. The Taiwanese did the terminal building and now he is well on the way with Arnos Vale.

The plan embodies a system of zonation based mainly on density of land use.There are four zones: High, Intermediate, Low and Tourism. The High zone includes a Special zone for a building or monument of particular importance in terms of function and height. The Tourism zone will be high density and run along the waterfront, which includes a board walk. Provision is made for hotels, restaurants, docks and wharves. Buildings are envisaged that would mirror old Kingstown with shady galleries over the pavement.

Traffic is guided through the area by some five roundabouts. There is a choice of routes linking the Windward and Vigie Highways to Casson Hill. A tunnel through Cane Garden is expected to link old and new Kingstown.

An English firm has been hired to do the Marketing Study and a Canadian one to do the design of the infrastructure. It is the latter that, having examined three options, concluded that the tunnel should be built.

Of course, all this is only a plan. There is, however, good reason why we should have faith. Time was when the Reclaimed Lands were but a drawing on the wall of the Post Office. More recently and even more heartening is how far we have come with the Argyle Airport.

by C.I. Martin