Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez. File photo/Sureash Cholai
MAYOR of Port of Spain Joel Martinez and Downtown Owners and Merchants Association Gregory Aboud are at odds about how to save the city, with each accusing the other of not doing enough.
In an interview with i95FM on Thursday, Aboud said the city was in need of reviving and high-rise buildings were not the answer.
“Building buildings and putting down high-rises cannot resuscitate Port of Spain. Anybody who understands urban development…and the issues related to attracting investment and customers understands you can’t have a city without a vibrant business sector.”
He said there needed to be greater collaboration between those at City Hall and businesses, adding that those at City Hall “seem to be quite obtuse (about) the needs of the city.
“The life of the city hangs in the balance. They are dismissive of our needs, which has been the case all along. They collect a salary from the central government whether the city lives or dies. Decisions made at City Hall damage the city.
What the city needed, he said, was order.
“What it needs is a combined effort between people who have vested interests, like the business people, taxi drivers and everyone else. It needs a combined effort between the business community and those with authority to make decisions to help the city.”
In response, Martinez said it was the business community that needed to step up. He added that at the close of business, the city is asleep, and to attract more business into the capital there must be residents living in the city. The closest residents, he said, are those in East Port of Spain, whose purchasing power may not be as high as others’.
“When the business community was thriving, it bought out residential areas and turned it into businesses. Central business damaged itself by this.
“There are very few restaurants to have lunch and dinner in the city because there is no one living in the city, and that is part of the reason the city is dying.”
Martinez said the Government’s plan to revitalise the capital included attracting residents by constructing a hotel on the site of the Salvatori Building, at the corner of Frederick Street and Independence Square. Another proposed site for a multi-storey housing complex is at Wrightson Road where the PowerGen station once stood.
“The government of TT has to revitalise the city, because it was recognised that it is needed. We have to encourage residents into the city,” Martinez said, adding that unoccupied buildings should be retrofitted into apartments.
“Businessmen need to rethink their process. It is taking longer to revitalise the city. They can’t want the government to do everything. The business sector needs to work with the city to get it done.”