Regional

Mobay Civic centre to be rebranded and opened next month

New day for Mobay

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 19, 2014    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — THE $62-million rehabilitation works at the Montego Bay Civic Centre aimed at transforming the 12-year-old facility into a heritage and cultural showpiece in the resort city is to be completed in another few weeks, following which the centre will be rebranded and officially opened next month as the Montego Bay Cultural Centre.

"We have been renovating the centre over the last six months and now it's finally becoming a reality and we are very, very, excited about this new development," said Josef Forstmayr, a prominent hotelier, who chairs the broad-based 14-member Montego Bay Arts Council, the driving force behind the development.

Funding for the project is being provided by the Noel Sloley-chaired Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

As part of the initiative, sections of the facility will serve as a branch of the National Museum as well as the National Gallery.

"There will be a gift shop, a bistro which will display the best of Jamaican food; there will be an artisan village where we will have artisans in residence that will do productive work there; there will be poetry reading, music, dance.....," an elated Forstmyar told the Jamaica Observer West.

Built at a cost of $155 million with funds made available from the Venezuelans under the San Jose Accord, the facility was handed over to the St James Parish Council three months after then prime minister PJ Patterson officially opened it in October 2001.

At that time, the facility, which is built on the ruins of the old court house that was destroyed by fire more than four decades ago, was touted as the centrepiece of the historic Sam Sharpe Square.

But for several years there have been numerous calls for the facility -- where a number of town hall meetings exhibitions and civic functions have been held to be rehabilitated and transformed into a first-class heritage and cultural centre.

"This civic centre has been sitting there as a white elephant for a long time, so now we are giving it some life and excitement and making it into a place where people can take their friends, their families after church on a Sunday.... they will also be open on Saturdays, as well," Forstmayr explained.

He added that the rehabilitation of the centre includes the installation of elevators, generators, water pumps, security cameras, underground water tanks, as well as major repairs to sanitary conveniences.

"It is all being done first-class, so that we can all be proud of it," he stressed, adding, "We are hoping to attract locals and tourists alike."

It is hoped that the development will serve as the catalyst for the redevelopment of downtown Montego Bay, which is being impacted by urban blight.

According to Suzette Brown, the councillor for the Montego Bay South Division, where the centre is located, the works being undertaken at the facility go hand-in-hand with improvements to the Dome monument, the Harbour Street Craft Market and those to be done on the Fruit and Vegetable Market and the Fish Market at William Street in the

resort city.

"The development represents overall a significant investment by the TEF, and we look forward to the requisite spin-offs; what with the citing of the National Museum West, National Gallery West and the development of a City Tour to include other historical sites in the locale," Brown argued.

"It now requires the commitment of citizens to protect this major investment and develop legitimate cottage industries to support activities there, even while we at the St James Parish Council continue to work to bring about structure to the traffic and vending situation in the area, which, if left unchecked, will negatively affect all the programmes to come on stream at this facility, being developed to be a genuine repository of our history and beacon of the future of Montego Bay in particular and western Jamaica in general," added Brown, a member of the Montego Bay Arts Council, and chairman of the Civic and Community Affairs Committee of the St James Parish Council.

Meanwhile, President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nathan Robb told the Observer West that his organisation is in full support of the initiative.

"The Montego Bay Chamber is in full support of the opening of the facility. It is a facility which should have been here long ago, and one that we hope will begin to fully promote the cultural and arts aspect of our heritage and our tourism," he said.

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