Construction has finally started on what is expected to be a multi-billion dollar project that will transform 70 acres of Invaders Bay and the western part of Port-of-Spain.
The project that has often been marred by controversy is expected to see significant development on the waterfront and link MovieTowne to Cocorite via a boardwalk. There is also expected to be a major hotel, high value housing, businesses and shops and entertainment.
Describing the move as positive for the economy, Udecott’s chairman Noel Garcia told the Business Guardian that works began about a month ago, adding that Namalco Construction Services Ltd was awarded a $70 million contract for building out the infrastructure, including roads, electricity, telephone, ICT and natural gas among other things.
“We went out to tender sometime in 2020 and we got proponents who had expressed an interest in using the land. So we had two proponents who expressed interest, we have another three who have also expressed interest and we hope that when we finally develop the entire site we would go out for an Expression of Interest to the remainder,” Garcia further explained, noting that infrastructure is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
He said one of the proponents, which already conducted feasibility studies, will establish a “long stay hotel” carrying an international name and the Business Guardian understands this is another Marriott brand.
Further, Garcia said there are also plans for commercial and residential spaces along with a marina.
According to Garcia said the project will generate much needed employment and boost economic growth.
“This will generate a lot of employment in the construction phase and hopefully long-term employment when the development is fully subscribed and operational,” Garcia added.
Also, he said the proponents are expected to start their work in the first quarter of 2023.
According to Udecott’s website the area which was reclaimed “has emerged as a modern commercial and entertainment centre” with activities such as the Movietowne Complex, the PriceSmart Shopping Club, a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and the BHP Billiton corporate building.
It noted that current development controls allow for, in broad terms, further office, commercial and retail space, recreational parks, hotel accommodation and conferencing facilities, residences, a marina and a ferry terminal.
Udecott further said that it is recommended that the Invaders Bay area feature the T&T Global Financial Centre.
“Moreover, further land reclamation will be undertaken west of Invaders Bay along the foreshore/Audrey Jeffers Highway and continue to Fisherman’s Bay, near to Peake’s Service Station,” the company said.
It added that this reclamation effort will provide for the potential development of beaches, beach front theme parks and resorts which will offer recreational opportunities to residents and visitors.
A boardwalk is proposed from the Invaders Bay Development to central Port-of-Spain which will offer easy connectivity to the Central Business District and other areas of the capital city.
Garcia further said the initiative is in keeping with Government’s revitalisation objective for the capital.
Additionally, Udecott is working to establish a green park “right off Invaders Bay close to the foreshore,” Garcia said.
“This was contained when the Prime Minister had the ‘Spotlight on Port-of-Spain’ sometime in November 2019. This is nothing new but COVID had put a little damper but now hopefully, out of COVID, a lot of plans which were kind of dormant you are now seeing it blossom one again,” Garcia explained.
Is it fair?
Derek Chin, who spoke to the Business Guardian from Guyana, said he simply got fed-up of waiting on Government for an answer and instead took his business to that country.
“And as you can see I’m doing quite well in Guyana,” Chin added.
However, while lauding Government’s efforts, Chin said he was instrumental in trying to develop the area “right down to the sea.”
“I had tended twice for my Streets of the World and I didn’t hear anything and I said somebody blocked me and I took the funds and I built Guyana instead which seems to be a good decision.
“But now we see all this sort of work going on so we just dropped it totally because there was no response as to whether my project was not allowed or whether they didn’t like it and that was ten years ago,” Chin explained.
However, he said he was approached by Udecott “only last week” to enquire whether he was “still interested in doing something.
“I mean I will always be interested but I don’t know what the terms and conditions are. We just don’t know enough from Udecott. The land needs to be developed but is it a level playing field? We don’t know. I am not holding any grouse but I feel they (Government) need to be above board with these projects because what comes behind affects MovieTowne.
“The Government needs to tell the people exactly what is happening there because it’s been a very hot item in the past,” Chin added.
Chartered surveyor and former president of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) Afra Raymond when contacted said it seems that what is taking place is the installation of basic infrastructure, ie roads, drains, lights and water.
“But it would be interesting to know the design/layout and intended purpose of this project.
“Without those elementary design/layout details, one is unable to make a sensible comment, apart from opacity being an intended outcome,” Raymond said.
History of the area
In 2014 Government gives the green light for the $5.5 billion Invaders Bay development, but the JCC had accused the Government of operating under a shroud of secrecy, saying the project was being done in breach of the Central Tenders Board regulations.
In the judicial review application, the JCC was seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act relating to the tendering process for the construction of entire proposed property at since 2011.
Two local companies-–Invaders Bay Marine Ltd and Da Chin Commercial Development Ltd-–had gotten the nod from Cabinet for their proposals
In 2014, High Court judge Justice Frank Seepersad ruled in favour of the JCC.
Justice Seepersad stated there must always be transparency in any project undertaken by Government and that all attempts should be made as to dispel any perception of financial impropriety or misappropriation of public funds in the carrying out of those projects
Chin, chairman of Da Chin Enterprises and Multicinemas Ltd MovieTowne’s parent company, had revealed that his plan was to build themed spaces reflective of the country, such as Indian Street, African Street, Chinese Street, Syrian-Lebanese Street, Fashion Street, etc, to showcase T&T’s cultural heritage and people’s love of shopping.