Several strategic areas in the city will be transformed into cultural and historical landmarks. That’s the plan embodied in the Downtown Rejuvenation Project. It was officially launched at the House of Culture today and it covers the reconstruction of the House of Culture, upgrading of streets and parks in downtown Belize City and the creation of a more vibrant and flourishing commercial center. The outline of the project was unveiled today and Courtney Weatherburne has the details.

Courtney Weatherburne Reporting….

Diane Haylock - President, NICH

"Why did we think that such project was necessary? Well first of all, this house is history, this house is heritage, this house is an important part of Belize. And there was a feeling that perhaps the way it was being used, the way it was presented was not befitting it's status in that history, it’s place in that history."

In order for the House of Culture to take its rightful place in history, a rejuvenation project was launched to give the old house an overhaul and promote its historical significance.

Abil Castaneda - Chief Tourism Officer

"The initial idea was to do something with this ground, with this remarkable architectural feat we have in Belize and to really allow it to have Belizeans first and them our visitors be able to come to this facility, to these grounds and learn about the history, learn about the heritage. Not only of Belize city, but of the country itself."

But the project is not only limited to the House of Culture.

Abil Castaneda - Chief Tourism Officer

"While we began to look at just this little area here, that is in yellow, which is the house of culture where you are right now. As the process evolved, what we realised is that the true impact and importance of this house is not only limited to the boundaries of the house of culture. And that the history and the value of such an architecture because of the historical values that it has - it really impacts this entire area here as the original settlement of old Belize.”

And that portrait of “Old Belize” is guiding the project.

Abil Castaneda - Chief Tourism Officer

"So this is the basis on what it is that we are looking at for this project. We're looking at what Belize city downtown once was. The values that it had. They old port which was behind the supreme court building. The architectural buildings - both the brick ones and the wooden ones. All of these assets are things that maybe from a common perspective would say that these things are just old structures, best thing we knock them down. But from our perspective, we have realised that these really are very important vestiges and also assets that not only tell the story of how Belize city was settle but also it tells a very important story of how life was back in the colonial days. We saw it important to see how we could maybe not go back to what it once was but to use the aspects that are still with us to allow us to appreciate what our history was, our heritage is and use that to compel the development towards the future."

And in order to seize that future, the past must be preserved and embraced.

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, Belize City

"So much of our Belizeanes has been lost to history, our architecture, our unique expressions, these things are things which tell the story of who we are as a people. Where we have come from and where we're going. And it is in incumbent on us to be champions of preservation of our heritage and that must start in the area of highest concentration of heritage sites which is in our downtown Belize City.”

That is where most of the work will be done including building a boardwalk from the Swing Bridge to the Bliss centre

And upgrading the streets and the grounds at the House of Culture.

It is quite an ambitious project looking at key target areas in the city, but can it be done after years of just consultation?

Darrell Bradley

"All the stakeholders are very invested in the project. I have seen and worked over the last 3 years with the partners from BTB and from NICH. And I see the heart we bring to the project, I see that they have been very committed in terms of bring us to this point and taking us forward. City council like wise in terms of our technical persons and myself. We're very passionate about improvements in key areas including in the downtown so that we really put our seal on insuring this project is implemented in the way it was implemented. It's community led, that it has buy in - it targets the assets, that it's focused on heritage, preservation and enhancement. And we talk about a comprehensive approach so that the success of it will depend on the people who's face are on the project, talking about it, trying to build that consensus."

The 2 year project costs $15 million dollars. The project is in the bidding stage, but works are expected to begin in June.

Channel 7

Big Plans For Downtown Belize City