By Alexis R. Milan
The entire downtown area of Belize City, from the House of Culture to the Swing Bridge, will soon be the subject of a comprehensive renovation project.
Entitled the “Belize City House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project”, the plan is a joint effort by the National Institute of Culture and History, the government, the Belize City Council, and Taiwan, with funding through the Taiwan International Cooperation Development Fund. The unveiling of the project’s components was launched on Wednesday morning at the Belize City House of Culture.
According to project planner and Chief Tourism Officer, Abil Castaneda, the project seeks to revisit a time in the past by using an eco-museum strategy. There will be different focal points which will be utilized to tell the story of when Belize City was just a small settlement on the banks of the Haulover Creek.
The project is multi-pronged, and is estimated to take shape over a period of two years. Castaneda says that, “The Belize City House of Culture will be one of the main core areas of interest that we will have for the project. We will still carry out specific renovations of this building…of the carriage building…we will recreate what once was one of the first botanical gardens in the country, here in the gardens of the House of Culture.”
Another facet of the project, where infrastructure is concerned, will be the installation of a boardwalk along the Haulover Creek, between the Swing Bridge and the House of Culture grounds, where a National Colonial Museum will be located. The Commercial Center, currently dilapidated and more of an eyesore than a thing of function and beauty, will receive particular interest. The project team plans to renovate that building, opening it up to the Haulover Creek in an attempt to recreate a time when that waterway was a premier source of activity.
From there, the project will look at the preservation of homes and structures, which are still standing as symbols of a time past. Homes which feature the traditional construction of that time will be renovated on the condition that the owner will make it available to those who visit the downtown “eco-museum.”
Much of the work envisioned in the facelift of the downtown area has already taken place under the Belize City Master Plan, including the complete renovation of the Battlefield Park and Mule Park.
The Downtown Rejuvenation Project aims to work in tandem with the Belize City Master Plan to continue that work, with some focus on the ‘Court Plaza’ and especially the bank of the creek where the old port was located.
The launching on Wednesday featured representation from NICH, the Belize City Council, the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Government of Belize. The $15M project is expected to get underway within the next few months, and continue, at least initially, for a period of two years.