House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project

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On Wednesday April 8th, 2015 Honorable Minister Manuel Heredia, Mayor Darell Bradley, President of NICH Ms. Diane Haylock and a representative from the Embassy of the Republic of China, Taiwan together launched  the commencement of a BZD$14 million project for Downtown Belize City.  Abil Castaneda from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation discussed key points of the project:
1.    The project is officially referred to as the House of Culture and Downtown Belize City Rejuvenation Project.
2.    The project is being funded through a loan procured by the Government of Belize from the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund in the sum of US$5.3 million. The Government of Belize through the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation and the National Institute of Culture & History (NICH), along with the Belize City Council, will provide counterpart funding in the sum of approximately US $2.269 million (in cash and kind).

3.    Based on the framework provided for in Horizon 2030, Belize Medium Term Development Strategy (BMTDS), Belize City Master Plan, and the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (NSTMP), the project was conceived in order to enhance the image of Belize City through the preservation and conservation of the historical buildings in City downtown area. Additionally, the project is intended to enhance the downtown historic spaces for the education of Belizeans as well as visitors.

4.    In 2012, with the assistance of the students from the University of Belize, a GIS mapping of the historic structures in Belize was conducted. This mapping exercise identified almost 1000 historic structures in Belize City. The downtown area of Belize City which includes Albert and Regent Streets was identified as a core area for the development of the project since it features the architectural assets of highest cultural and historical value within Belize City.

5.    The project has three broad purposes: i) improvements in legislation to preserve urban colonial heritage; ii) improvements in the awareness and appreciation of the Caribbean vernacular heritage through the rejuvenation of historical buildings and finally; iii) increase the number of public spaces in Belize City. The legislation to conserve and protect our historical heritage is currently being worked on through the office of the Solicitor General.

6.    The project components for which monies will be spent include:
a)    The refurbishment of the House of Culture and the design of an interpretative exhibition within the House which tells the story of the historic past, Belize’s Cultures as well our Story of Resistance including Emancipation and Independence Movements.
b)    Construction of a one-storey activities building to house meeting rooms, multimedia conference rooms, gift shop, bakery and office and public toilets. This is to be built on the grounds of the House of Culture.
c)    The selection and restoration of at least 2 historic buildings in downtown Belize for use as craft and sales centers for use by Belizean craft workers.
d)    The redesign of the commercial center adjacent to the Swing Bridge.
e)    The construction of a promenade from the commercial center to the Court House Wharf in order to allow greater access and use of the waterfront.
f)    The construction of a boardwalk at the House of Culture to allow further access and use of the waterfront.
g)    The transformation of the House of Culture grounds into a tropical botanical garden and eco-museum.
h)    Installation of interpretative signs and lighting which demarcate historic spaces and buildings including but not limited to: the House of Culture, Supreme Court, Battlefield Park, Eboe Town, and Yarborough Cemetery.
i)    The development of an oral history documentation program for the recording and dissemination of narratives which enrich the story of Belize City including stories from elders and key citizens.
j)    This model project and legislation to be developed anticipate the protection, preservation and appreciation of other historical buildings and spaces around the country.

During the conception of the project community residents, historians and business persons in the historic downtown area were consulted. All such persons expressed interest and excitement at the possibility of this project coming on stream. The project implementation team is currently being established within the Ministry and the project will commence immediately thereafter.

Persons wishing to make a contribution to this important project are encouraged to contact the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation or National Institute of Culture and History in order to share your ideas and contribute to the success of this important initiative.


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