City Hall has identified four potential sites for the relocation of approximately 800 vendors before the start of the rehabilitation of the Stabroek Market Wharf as part of the waterfront development project.
At a consultation held in the compound of City Hall on Thursday morning, Town Clerk Royston King identified the East Bank Demerara bus park, sections of Lombard and Cornhill streets, the Merriman Mall and the area west of the Public Buildings as the proposed sites for the relocation of the vendors.
King, however, noted that a decision had yet been made and he indicated that the city is still open to suggestions.
The construction for the waterfront development project is due to begin in the first quarter of 2018 and it is expected to run into the following year.
King also acknowledged that in addition to vendors, speed boat and minibus operators who work in the area would also be displaced by the work. Given the serious risks that could be posed during the construction work, he said City Hall would not allow them to continue to operate in the area and as a result it wanted to engage them on how they would proceed.
Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, who also spoke at the meeting, voiced her disappointment at the number of vendors present, which amounted to less than one hundred, while emphasising that the engagement was held in their interest. “We want you to work with us and give us suggestions on areas you think you should be relocated. There would be heavy duty machinery operating there and materials being stored,” she said. “These things could be a danger to your lives, so we don’t want anyone within the area when works are going on,” she added.
Chase-Green said the relocation would force vendors to face some discomfort and drops in sales but added that the sacrifice would be necessary to facilitate the construction works. She also informed them that they when they return to the new wharf, there would be new operating arrangements, including higher fees.
Meanwhile, the prevailing sentiment among the vendors was that they would be ready to relocate once the area identified by the city is suitable for their operations.
Ronald Raymond, a vendor who operates behind the Guyana Fire Service headquarters, suggested that the council utilise the plot of land located next to the Ministry of Social Protection for the relocation as it would enhance the space and deter the use of the area as a public washroom. He also questioned whether they would have to build their own makeshift stalls or if the council would be providing them with stalls.
Harriram (only name), another vendor, suggested that the contractors use the Demerara River to transport their materials to the site, thereby minimising the disruption of vending in the area. He pointed out that when the wharf was previously reconstructed, the building materials had been delivered to the location by boat.
King assured that the city would be taking the suggestion into consideration.
Additionally, other vendors asked that the areas identified for their relocation be within the business district of the Stabroek Market.
Some asked that they be able to return to their current spaces once the wharf is completed. In line with Chase-Green’s previous pronouncement on the issue, King pointed out that when they return to the wharf they would be doing so as concessionaires.
Before the conclusion of the meeting, the vendors were told to form themselves into a group to engage the council as decisions are made on move forward with the relocation.
The waterfront development project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure with grant resources from the United Kingdom. The project is estimated to cost in excess of $400 million.