Plans for over $400M City Hall restoration underway

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The restoration of the City Hall building, estimated at $400 million, was the topic for discussion at a two-day workshop at Duke Lodge which will conclude today (Thursday).

(From left) Director of Culture, Tamika Boatswain, Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase- Greene, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation, Jernej Videtic, Facilitator, Edward Morton and Team Leader, Francis Maude.

The project is a collaborative effort between the European Union (EU) and National Trust of Guyana. It focuses on preparing a comprehensive restoration and sustainable conservation management plan that will guide the refurbishment and long-term preservation of the structure.

Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) Town Clerk Royston King told reporters that the estimated figure was derived around a decade ago and he further observed that given the fact the building has deteriorated even more over time, additional funds would be needed to save the structure, which was completed in 1889.

“It has significant historical and cultural significance and we couldn’t allow the building to remain like that in the city,” King noted on Wednesday.

The assessment plan falls under a $64 million contract, which has special focus on the physical and structural state of City Hall and the City Engineer’s Building.

A comprehensive green restoration plan and a sustainable conservation management plan will also be put forward to stakeholders.

British architect and conservationist Francis Maude said that the local construction industry and capacities for joinery were assessed in various meetings between November 2016 and 2018. “We also visited the municipal archives in order to learn about the history and development of the building and we returned to the UK (United Kingdom) to work on the report to support the findings on what we had done,” Maude observed.

Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase-Greene said that future generations would be able to see and appreciate the beauty of the building, which her grandchildren call a “castle”. However, the building has suffered much neglect over the years even though millions of dollars has been allocated to facilitate repairs, including some $20 million in 2012. Apart from that, an independent fund had been set up to garner donations to salvage the structure.

Nevertheless, the Mayor regarded much of the work done over time as “cosmetic surgeries”. National Trust Head Nirvana Persaud added that the technical development plan should be handed over to City Hall by July and it was expected that City Hall would then seek funding from international donors. Persaud is, however, appealing for locals, including the Private Sector, to support the restoration initiative.“In order to make a real difference, we must seek to educate ourselves and each other and learn about the significance of these aspects of our heritage,” she noted.

In a previous report, Mayor Chase-Greene had highlighted that operatives of the M&CC were in discussions with the World Monument Funding Agency, Guyana Heritage Society and the National Trust, which also gave assurances of its support after a review of the building, indicating that repairs should be conducted in the near future.

She pointed out then that the wait was on for a thorough report from the organisations along with recommendations on each phase of the restoration process, after which the rehabilitation works will commence.

Ambassador of the European Union Delegation, Jernej Videtic described the plan as the precursor for future works on other heritage structures.

“City Hall has been described as the most picturesque and most handsome building in Georgetown as well as one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in the Caribbean. This plan will set the benchmark to enable a transfer of know-how of how to correct and restore other monuments of historical and symbolic value in Guyana,” Videtic explained.

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