Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Residents express mixed views on Downtown 'turnaround'
The GBPA project was launched in March 2009, and included the upgrading of parking lots, the repaving of damaged areas, re-striping, re-curbing and landscaping.
It also meant new parking lighting fixtures, new trash containers and new walkways for the downtown area. Businessowners were also asked to refurbish the exterior of their establishments.
The latest phase entailed the construction of a new, 1,495-square-foot, handicap accessible welcome centre and bus transit station, which also houses a jointly-shared Police Force and Road Traffic Division satellite office, restrooms and eateries.
The Freeport News team visited the downtown area to speak with residents and get their views on the facelift.
Terrance Rahming, who works at a carwash in the area, said he is quite pleased with the work.
"I love it, Freeport has been looking drab for too long. it's a nice turnaround," he said.
"They're doing a perfect job and tell them keep up the good work. I feel like they could have given some of the guys who are not working a job, but they're doing a nice job still."
Another resident, Ricardo Saunders, said he felt it was money well spent.
"I appreciate what they did. It looks way better than how it was. You can at least bring people around the downtown area during Junkanoo and Goombay time and it even looks better for when the tourists come around," he said.
Commending the GBPA on a job well done, Isaac Thomas said the project will bode well for the island's tourism industry.
"I think it is worth fixing it up how it is supposed to look because with the tourists coming in if it looks bad they're going to say it makes no sense going there," he said.
Alice Bain shared her opinion that some improvements in the design still needed to be made. The way the curbing was built was not practical for vehicles manoeuvring through the downtown area, she said, but overall the beautification efforts were a welcome change.
Meanwhile, Sidney Laroda was reserved his praise, saying the work should have been carried out much sooner.
"It was supposed to be this way a long time ago. They take too long to get it together," he said, adding that he also wished more fruit trees had been planted.
Back in October 2009, GBPA officials had noted that by this time, it was hoped that the area could have been opened for entertainment purposes, and been more attractive for residents when they shop.
Last weekend, that vision was realized when the organization hosted its Angels of Hope Christmas concert in the area.
Benjamin Miller said the improvements give him a feeling that there will be a turnaround on the island in the coming months.
"I feel like better days are coming. Everything looks good," he said.
Rudolph J. Smith shared a similar sentiment.
"They are bringing Freeport back. What they're doing is a marvelous job," he said.
Another resident also spoke of the benefits of having an aesthetically pleasing environment, especially when visitors to the island are transported to the area.
"It looks nice. It makes the town look more decent and appealing to the tourists. They can go back and tell their friends that Freeport is a nice, clean island and it is more exciting. a lot of people can look around and see the beauty and the addition of the welcome centre," he said.