By Carlena Knight
Work is underway at the former Barrymore Hotel on Fort Road to house some of the residents of Booby Alley.
Presently, there are 50 residents in that area left to be relocated and, according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Clarence Pilgrim, preparations are being made to accommodate them at this facility.
“We are now looking at accommodating more persons in a number of areas. We are looking at the Barrymore Hotel, for example. We have been renovating the Barrymore Hotel so that we can accommodate the remaining number of persons,” Pilgrim said.
He added that they are still looking at other areas as well to house families as it is not their intent to separate family members by housing them in different locations.
“Additionally, what we tried to do is try and keep families together, so if we can see or seek accommodation that would have like a family setting, like a rented house, etc, we will move persons into that. The whole objective is to keep families intact while we move them,” Pilgrim explained.
A few years ago, Barrymore was used to house Barbudans following the passage of Hurricane Irma in 2017, but in 2019, 24 Barbudans who had remained at the Fort Road location were evicted to make way for the government to develop the premises into a small hotel and business center.
However, that plan failed to materialise and since then, the facility has been left in a dilapidated state but renovations are now underway to prepare the complex to house the Booby Alley residents.
That specific area had also been identified, according to previous reports, to relocate residents of lower Newgate Street to make way for the Port expansion project.
The housing project – being funded by China – has been beset by delays over the years with the most prominent being the relocation of the residents in the Booby Alley/Point area.
Regarding the relocation aspect of the housing project, Pilgrim admitted that it has been very challenging, but with just 50 residents left to move he is optimistic that the programme will move forward swiftly with the final set of houses to be demolished.
Already, they have “demolished approximately 62 structures”.
“There are about 29 remaining structures but to be more accurate we have either demolished or relocated 62 structures,” Pilgrim added.
The relocation stage is a major part of the redevelopment plan which will see the structural and environmental rehabilitation of Booby Alley, where 150 new houses will be built, thanks to a grant from the Chinese government.
In 2019, Booby Alley residents protested the project amid fears they were going to be displaced from their homes, but after a number of meetings with Prime Minister Gaston Browne, the conflict was resolved.
Temporary homes were constructed in Villa to house some of the residents, while others have been placed in private buildings or have had their homes which were in good repair moved to vacant lots.
In October 2018, the government accepted a grant from China to construct 250 homes in total.
One-hundred and fifty two-bedroom houses will be constructed in the area with only the buildings which house Papasita Destin’s supermarket and the Bethel Anglican Church set to remain.
Priority was given to the Booby Alley area in Point, but according to PM Browne, the intention is to move into communities like Gray’s Farm, as well.