NO RESIDENT will be relocated outside of their district during the Piccadilly regeneration project as the Government moves to improve the housing and infrastructure in east Port of Spain, making it attractive for new tenants by removing the stigma of crime and poverty.
The assurance was given by senior officials of the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in response to a series of questions from Sunday Newsday surrounding the Port of Spain Revitalisation Plan which was unveiled by the Prime Minister on November 16.
The redevelopment of east Port of Spain is one phase of the plan to revitalise the capital city which includes 16 proposals, including the construction of high-rise apartments, a waterfront park, and even tram cars.
The masterplan is broken up into seven segments – Memorial Plaza Project; The Salvatori Building Project, Piccadilly Development Project, the PowerGen site; the Foreshore Green Park; the public trams systems,;and the City Gate development.
Last week, Sunday Newsday polled long-time residents of east Port of Spain on the proposed project, and many said they were not prepared to move to make way for a developed Port of Spain.
Udecott’s senior legal officer Aaliyah Hosein and HDC’s divisional manager Deborah Cheeseman, when asked if residents refuse to relocate, said in a joint response, “The well-being of all residents (is) a priority and the Piccadilly regeneration (development) project is designed with the intention of creating a better living space for all residents. It is therefore not expected that the issue of relocation will arise, as persons are not being relocated outside of their original areas.”
They referred to a social survey done in 2018 by ACQ and Associates, of California, central Trinidad, which was contracted by the HDC to assess the demographic of the proposed site.
The company, which was paid $1.4 million, was contracted to gather information in relation to the structures and land in the defined area, from Jackson Hill to the north, Besson Street to the south, Piccadilly Street to the west and Lodge Place to the east and to ascertain in particular:
The extent of lands, houses, settlements, and other community properties likely to be affected
The number and ages of people who occupy structures within and who will be directlyaffected by the proposed regeneration
The status of the occupier and the legal and/or beneficial interest, if any, in the properties
The type of house and size as well as the condition of the structure
The health and social needs of the residents and the number of people who can beclassified as vulnerable
The nature and extent of business activity
The community and government assets which may be affected
The company’s scope of works included field and title investigation, preparation and service of legal notices, valuations and negotiations (conduct of valuations; preparation and settling of the acquisition/negotiation budget), the management of vacant possession (conduct of and settling of compensation; issuance of payment) and managing the process of vacant possession.
Asked whether the State intended to use the Land Acquisition Act or the Slum Clearance Act to acquire properties needed for the construction of the new apartment complex, the officials noted that the social survey “revealed that most of the lands were originally state-owned and at least one area became re-vested in the State by the State invoking its powers under the Slum Clearance Act in 1976.”
They said the expectation is that no resident, business owner or property owner will be negatively affected as the project progresses. Data from the social survey shows that the southernmost portion of the site is the least densely occupied and this area will therefore be the first phase of the Piccadilly Redevelopment Project.
HDC and Udecott said the focus of the east Port of Spain development aims at stimulating national growth, encouraging the repopulation of the capital city with improved living standards and quality of life for the residents by promoting commercial, recreational and cultural activities, improving security, infrastructure and transport networks and promoting entrepreneurship and employment opportunities and overall economic growth.
If the State has to compulsorily acquire any property which stands in the way of the project, it will calculate the market value of the property based on “market forces, location, age, condition, improvements in the neighbourhood,” according to the officials.
“An assessment in the case of businesses, of documented management or audited accounts including a review of statutory and tax levies and payments made to the State for the prior three to five years of the business” would be required and claims for compensation may only be made by and paid to the titled owner, they said.