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Apr 8, 2015

Big Plans for Downtown Belize City

Today, the Belize City House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project was officially launched. The fifteen million dollar development was made possible through a loan from Taiwan and counterpart funding from the Government of Belize, the National Institute of Culture and History and the Belize City Council. It’s been in the works for a few years, but with the concept and planning done, comprehensive renovation of the House of Culture and the entire downtown of the Old Capital are set to get underway. Mike Rudon was at the launching and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The extensive project, launched today, is geared at giving the downtown of Belize City new life – ironically by revisiting a past life when that area was a small settlement on the Haulover Creek. Initially the project was limited to the House of Culture grounds, including structures, but the team realized that it would have to be about much more than that.

 

Abil Castaneda

Abil Castaneda, Chief Tourism Officer

“Instead of just investing all of it in the Belize City House of Culture, what we will do is we will develop the downtown…at least initiate the process of developing the downtown into a historic downtown. And the model of planning, and the model of development that is used is called eco-museum. It’s an eco-museum model, meaning that as a museum you would enter a building and you would see various displays. The eco-museum model says you would take the museum to the street. You would take the displays and put the story of the area onto the streets and you learn from what it is that you see while walking on the streets. Which is why it is important for us to look at how it is that we can use the assets that we already have to build that story, to tell the story of how old Belize once was.”

 

To tell that story the group which includes a team of experts from Taiwan will focus on the area between the House of Culture and that space which includes the Commercial Centre, Battlefield Park, Mule Park and the Court Buildings. Some of that work has already started as part of the Belize City Master Plan, but there is more in store in the short term.

 

Abil Castaneda

“The Belize City House of Culture will be one of the main core areas of interest that we will have for the project. We will still carry out specific renovations of this building…of the carriage building…we will recreate what once was one of the first botanical gardens in the country here in the gardens of the House of Culture. We will also be working on a boardwalk…a waterside boardwalk that would start from the Swing Bridge and that would continue all the way down. The complete idea is that the boardwalk would have completed the circuit and would have connected directly to the Belize City Museum that is here. That is a part of the vision of the Sustainable Tourism Master Plan for Belize City. We have limited funds, so we will start the first phase of that program. We have currently planned to do from the Swing Bridge to where the Bliss Institute is currently.”

 

The project will also address serious renovation of the Commercial Building to allow it to depict the period of early settlement when that area on the Haulover Creek was a thriving port. And then, another prong of the project will look at buildings of historical and cultural value in downtown Belize which will be targeted for renovation.

 

Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“So much of our Belizean-ness has been lost to history, our architecture, our unique expressions…these things are things which tell the story of who we are as a people – where we have come from and where we are going, and it is incumbent on us to be champions of preservation of our heritage and that must start in the area of highest concentration of heritage sites, which is in our downtown in Belize City.”

 

Henry Fan

Henry Fan, Councillor, Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

“Our experts from Taiwan came here many times to discuss with their colleagues from Belize to make this project…to avoid blind spots and to make sure the investment is worthwhile and keep the project sustainable. And I think although the process is long, but I think the outcome will be awesome and wonderful.”

 

Today, the partners also unveiled the project components, with works scheduled to start soon. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

The rejuvenation project is scheduled to last for a period of two years initially.

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