Minister Bowen’s interview with the New Today newspaper as reported in its Nov. 20, 2015 issue captioned “Abandoned buildings in Town,” was both interesting and instructive, and the Sentinel could not help but pay due regard to the minister’s observations, explanations and challenges regarding abandonment, absentee ownership, high cost of maintenance, heritage protection as opposed to demolition etc. given-for the increasing number of derelict and abandoned buildings in our Capital City, once regarded as the gem of the Caribbean.

The situation which we now inherit is not a today issue, but could be regarded as a consequence of post-independence governance, which had its genesis when local government was dissolved by the Gairy Govt. in the 1960’s and the coming of parliamentary representation for the Town of St. George at independence in 1974, which ushered in a period of consistent urban neglect and poor decision making up to 2015.

The scenario described above to restore and upgrade our urban centers requires more than just funding; it is a question of governance, political will and a leadership culture that is not at ease with mediocrity, and for these reasons a change for the better, it would appear – would be long in coming.

To support this contention the Sentinel would like to bring to the public attention the efforts made by the Foundation to have York House, our premier heritage site restored, in order to assist in bringing Church Street back to its pre-Ivan condition and to boost our Tourism Product, the major contributor to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The pronouncement made on public television by the Minister on Feb 18, 2014 that York House was structurally unsafe and should be demolished as it would not be cost effective to repair it , was challenged by the Foundation, and a letter to that effect was hand delivered to the Minister’s office on Feb 24, 2014.

There was no response to our letter, but the parliamentary representative for the Town of St. George Hon. Nickolas Steele invited a delegation from the Foundation on March 4, 2014 to discuss the matter with him and to consider the Foundation’s recommendations for the Restoration of York House, a position which he himself and the Minister for Heritage & Culture supported.

The meeting agreed to first have the building and site inspected by a team of engineers from the Ministry of Works, the Grenada Institute of Professional Engineers and the Willie Redhead Foundation, and to submit a written technical report on the structural integrity of the building to the parties involved.

On Tuesday September 9, 2014 an inspection was made by the parties above who were of the unanimous professional opinion that the structure was generally sound and could be restored, which was so recorded in their written report. The second stage agreed, was to have the building and site cleaned and cleared of the debris which was left unattended since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and was posing a public safety hazard. It was the understanding of the inspection team that the cleaning and clearing of the building and site would be the responsibility of the Ministry of Works.

One year and nine months have (since) elapsed with no action by the relevant authority, and at a recent meeting of the Foundation it was agreed to write again to the Minister of Works in order to meet with him in appointing a York House Building Committee and to obtain a written commitment from the Govt. of Grenada through the Minister of Works, to work in partnership with the Foundation in order to raise funds via the Grenadian Diaspora in the USA and Canada, who are willing and able to offer substantial financial assistance of no less than 50% of the EC $5.0 m estimated cost of the project, once such a commitment is given.

The letter dated Aug 18, 2015 referred to above, is published hereunder for public information. Three months later, despite weekly telephone calls to the Minister’s secretary, the Foundation has been up to the time of writing, unable to meet with the Minister. (Where there’s a will, there’s a way.)

It is quite evident that the Govt. is severely challenged, as stated by the Minister – and does not have the capacity (Financial & Human) to cope with the demands of our present day society, it is therefore our hope that the Minister of Works would find the time to consider (accept) the helping hand offered by the Foundation and others in this hour of dire need in assisting the promotion of PURE GRENADA, or is it just an empty slogan!

York House Cropped
York House eleven years after Hurricane Ivan.

Letter to Hon Nicholas Steele