ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The St John’s Development Corporation (SJDC) has come under fire for the planned demolition of the 50-year-old administration building at the bottom of High and Long streets, which formerly housed the Ministry of Health.
The building will be demolished to make way for the construction of a car park to ease the congestion in downtown St John’s.
The move forms part of a large scale remodelling plan currently awaiting Cabinet’s approval.
Opposition Leader Lester Bird, who is threatening legal action if the government follows through with the plan, said it lacks vision and was not properly thought through.
“Demolish it and do what? A cark park? Where is the vision to deal with something like this, and to establish St John’s as a significant city in the Caribbean? You can’t do that by having a car park,” Bird stated.
He suggested that the building be refurbished and enhanced to fall in line with the planned development.
Bird said with a few repairs, a fire escape and the installation of a proper sewage system, the cost of retrofitting the building would be minimal.
“An architect has estimated the cost of repairs to be less than $500,000,” Bird said.
He said the administration building is valued far more than the Food City steel-frame building which the United Progressive Party regime purchased for $15 million three years ago.
“The land on High Street is also worth far more than the lot at the Deep Water Harbour on which the Food City Building was constructed,” Bird added.
The ALP leader is also contending that nothing can be done to the existing structure unless there has been a public hearing and public agreement.
Bird said the SJDC law he shepherded through Parliament in 1986 requires a public hearing and public agreement before any architectural changes can be made to the cityscape.
He is hoping for the assistance of the public in what he termed as “a move to preserve the country’s history.”
The corporation is also looking to remove unauthorised taxi drivers and vendors from the area.
Chairman of SJDC, Sylvester Brown, said the plan will also be presented to the opposition leader for his perusal.