Two countries find favour with City Hall restoration project

Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green says he has received favourable responses from the representatives of two countries on assistance to prepare a plan for the restoration of City Hall, a project which he has said will run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Speaking to Stabroek News on Friday, Green said the city was trying to put together a package and had approached two countries who expressed a willingness to help. An expert is expected in the country to do the assessment and Green hopes central government will meet the cost of accommodating the expert.

Green said the restoration of the historic City Hall remains on the front burner for his office and he had written to the administration on the issue of funding but is yet to receive a response. He said too that he had met the culture ministry’s Director of Culture Professor James Rose on Friday. Dr Rose had previously stated government’s willingness to assist with the project and the two have been engaged in talks on the way forward.

According to Mayor Green, he made it clear at that meeting that the restoration of City Hall was a national matter and not one for the City Council alone.
Meanwhile, Dr Rose in an invited comment yesterday reiterated the government’s commitment saying he did not think there was a choice. However, he seemed less than impressed with the City Council’s presentation on Friday. “I don’t get the impression that any serious progress has been made in finalising the document,” the director said.

He added that he left the meeting with the impression that the plan needed input not readily available locally and he recalled that a promise had been made to source this between their previous meeting and Friday’s encounter.

Rose said while the government remains committed to City Hall’s restoration the nature of its assistance is still to be decided.
The foreign support and expertise the mayor is seeking is to help with the creation of the restoration plan which will then be taken to international agencies in order to secure funding, a move that Rose had proposed.

Green had told this newspaper in September that he had prepared letters to dispatch to citizens at home and in the diaspora seeking their assistance to raise some $400 million for the restoration, an idea that Professor Rose had dismissed as impractical.

The director at the time had said that that kind of civic-mindedness no longer exists and it would be better to seek the money from funding agencies.
“Our best bet would be to get a restoration plan, work out costing and a realistic schedule and go to the funding agencies. We are prepared to side with them but they’ve got to get the documentation right.”

It was a position with which the mayor later said he “absolutely agreed.” He did say though that he would go ahead with his plan to send out the letters saying that “it does no harm.”

In 1977, Guyana acceded to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage that was adopted by  UNESCO in 1972, a treaty which addresses the conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage sites of the world. From the mid-1990s Guyana made three nominations for World Heri-tage Site status, namely the Kaieteur National Park,  Shell Beach and Historic George-town. However, none of those submissions have been successful to date.

A ‘Tentative List’ indicating an intention to nominate Historic Georgetown was submitted to UNESCO in December 2004 and a small committee, which has not been functioning, was formed to complete the nomination dossier and the management plan for the site. That list includes City Hall. Two Dutch experts, including Dr Ron van Oers, who also worked with Suriname in preparing the country’s successful nomination, assisted in preparing Guyana’s dossiers.
And in April 2005, two Dutch experts in conservation spent two weeks in George-town supervising architecture staff and students of the  University of Guyana in a historic building survey of the selected area. This is part of the data collection for the nomination dossier.

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