Real Estate - Property Matters by Afra Raymond
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The Vision for San Fernando - Part 2

Published Thursday 26th August, 2004

This week we will consider the development proposals for the city of San Fernando.

The noted imbalance in the national allocation of resources and facilities between north and south Trinidad is even more remarkable when we consider that since 1991 we have had Prime Ministers from South. Does it mean that these men set out to be national leaders and set aside any regional ambitions? Perhaps the patterns we described last week are so deeply rooted that it will take a really determined effort to transform this picture. Our post-1986 norm of one-term governments with its consequent dilution of long-term policymaking may be more responsible than the individual leaders or parties.

The South Trinidad Chamber of Commerce published ‘A Vision for San Fernando’ in September 1995 and it is a call for action to prevent the continuing decline of the country’s ‘Industrial Capital’. I was not able to get a full copy of this valuable resource, but some of the key issues raised by this group of stakeholders were –

  • Expansion of recreational/entertainment facilities.

  • Exploitation of the potential of the King’s Wharf area for commercial and office users.

  • Improving the poor access between the Waterfront area and the High Street/Harris Promenade by building a pedestrian link.

  • Reclamation of part of the King’s Wharf waterfront to offer new transport options – both road and sea.

UDECOTT has also published similar proposals but it is clear that the Town & Country Planning Division has not revised its plans to take account of these proposals. The draft plans need to be adopted as the authoritative versions if critical issues are to be properly determined.

Some of the key planning issues would be –

  • Access to the Waterfront – It is early days yet and we have the opportunity to avoid the notable errors of the waterfront development in and around our capital. Of course I am referring to the fact that private landowners have been allowed by poor land-use planning to effectively deny public access to our waterfronts. We in POS have ended up in a position no developed country would allow; the coastal city with no public coastal facilities or even pleasant views. We need to ensure that this error is not repeated in San Fernando.

  • Housing Policy – Last week we highlighted the telling research into the poor condition of the housing in the city – in fact San Fernando’s housing is in poorer condition than any other town in the country – and the opposition to any large-scale construction of affordable housing there. It remains to be seen how the opportunity offered by the Caroni lands will be exploited and whether the city centre will be abandoned to continued decay by loss of its residential core.

  • Peripheral commercial development – The Cross Crossing Interchange has significantly improved access along the South Trunk Road/San Fernando Bypass. There are a number of proposals for development along this stretch. One could contend that these are more appropriately located in the city centre, since the intensive development of the lands bordering these roads would act to undermine their essential purpose – i.e. to provide an easy and relatively smooth passage for vehicles. To allow those proposals would lead to this stretch becoming like the perpetually-congested Wrightson Road in POS. Of course, the landowners along that stretch might well object to any attempts to unduly limit their rights. This tension is natural and expected.

These are potent issues for the planning system to address. The purpose of that system is to balance these contending claims as to the nature and extent of land development and use. The establishment of appropriate public policy can only be achieved by a collaborative process.

There are two distinct types of large-scale development upcoming in San Fernando – peripheral development at the edges of the city and a series of proposals to redevelop the Downtown/Waterfront Area.

The main features of these are set out in the sidebar.

Afra Raymond - Property Matters

Towncentre/Waterfront Development proposals for San Fernando

• Sagicor Headquarters at Independence Avenue – HQ building now under construction on this stretch just off the High Street/Harris Promenade/Court district.

• Chancery Lane office complex – Proposed office complex to house State offices on this site adjacent to the San Fernando General Hospital.

• Waterfront development – see above.

 • Transport Hub – This will be an attempt to manage the impact of maxi-taxis on the city, by creating a complex like City Gate on the Waterfront.

Peripheral Developments for San Fernando

• South Park – This is a proposed 26-Acre commercial/industry park – to be developed by the Rahael Group - at the Tarouba Link Road, just west of the San Fernando Technical Institute.

• Gulf City Extension – This is a significant expansion of the city’s largest mall to provide commercial units accessing directly onto the South Trunk Road as well as a restaurant/bar/recreation ‘zone’ on a nearby site along that road.

• Paria Suites Hotel - This is the refurbished TJ’s Hotel, with new conference and dining facilities.