By Orville Williams
After this week’s demolition of a restaurant and bar, a handful of residents are awaiting word from the Development Control Authority (DCA) on when more properties located on Lower Newgate Street are set to meet the same fate.
The demolition and/or removal of the buildings along the street are part of a US$25 million development project that is expected to revolutionize the city’s tourism offerings for cruise passengers by the middle of next year.
Mary Valdez was the most recent ‘victim’ of this project, with her 28-year-old establishment – Mary’s New Horizon Bar and Restaurant – reduced to rubble this week, after she allegedly received and ignored several notices to vacate, as well as attempts to support her temporary relocation.
Now, a couple of residents who remain on the street marked for clearing are anxiously awaiting word from the DCA about when they will be expected to leave.
“They gave us [until] the 20th or 30th of June to move, but whatever they’re putting in place for us has not been done, so we’re staying here until they finish. They will let us know when they finish.
“[I’m already packed] long time. They gave me a notice [to say] what they will do, so I’ve packed up my things and I’m waiting on them to come to say we are ready for y’all to move on the other side where we said that we’re going to put you guys”, one of the residents Nicholas Thomas told Observer.
The residents have been advised, he said, that they will be temporarily housed in the Barrymore Hotel – the site that famously hosted several Barbudans who were displaced after Hurricane Irma – for about two years.
He revealed that they were initially told back in February 2020 that they would need to move to facilitate the development project, but the Covid-19 pandemic pushed back those plans. They were then given another notice in August of 2021, but those plans were again delayed.
According to Thomas, who has been living on Newgate Street for 24 years, the house he currently occupies has been standing for approximately 90 years and the two-storey structure next to it has been standing even longer.
“As far as I understand, it has been there for over 100 years…[but] it will be brought down, because it is [not in good condition]”, he said.
Thomas also assured that he does not bear any ill will toward anyone involved in clearing the properties on the street, saying, “we don’t have any problems over here”.
The multi-million-dollar project – being led by the Antigua Cruise Port – will see the creation of a ‘modern waterfront day club’, featuring a state-of-the-art casino, food outlets, pools and retail spaces for business operators.
Newgate Street and the surrounding areas are also scheduled to be upgraded as part of the overall improvements.