By Carlena Knight
All remaining Booby Alley residents are set to be relocated within three weeks to make way for a massive regeneration project to parts of Point.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Works Clarence Pilgrim said he anticipated that the two-acre site would be “completely vacant” by April 15.
It is a slight delay to the previous timeline given of January 31.
Yesterday, the first 12 families received keys to temporary homes in Bay Street in nearby Villa.
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 October 2018, the government accepted a grant from China to construct 250 homes in total. A further 50 will be in Bolans and 50 in Barbuda.
Construction of temporary homes is still underway in Villa to house some residents, while others have been placed into private buildings or have had their homes which were in good repair moved to vacant lots.
An exact date for when work for building the new permanent homes will begin has not yet been given, but officials estimate the properties will take two years to construct.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne told a ceremony on Tuesday, to mark the first stage of the progamme getting underway, that “the Chinese government has indicated that all the residents must be moved and the area made vacant before any work, whether soil sampling or measurements, can begin”.
He said that, upon completion, the area will have a new modern look, which is long overdue. He mentioned that for far too long the Point/Villa area has been left behind and neglected while other areas in Antigua have been upgraded.
“If we were to speak truth to power, we would all conclude that for many decades this area has been left behind and the people were left to languish,” Browne said.
“The whole idea is just improving the living standard. We want to make sure that the people in Antigua and Barbuda get access to the best homes, the best quality healthcare and the best educational opportunities.”
The small wooden houses of Booby Alley will be replaced by modern homes which will be offered to the current residents upon completion.
Only the buildings which house Papasita Destin’s supermarket and the Bethel Anglican Church will remain.
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 Browne, who is also the parliamentary representative for the area, the conflict was resolved.
The area to be redeveloped encompasses North Street to St John’s Street on Wilkinson’s Cross; west on St John’s Street to Mariner’s Lane; south on Mariner’s Lane to North Street; and east on North Street to Wilkinson’s Cross.