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Chamber head calls for talks on project
The proposed $900 million rehabilitation of the Centre City Mall in Chaguanas is already causing ripples in the central borough. Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodan says it’s part of the Government’s overall 4Cs Growth Pole development plan for the borough and with the complementary works needed to accommodate it, the project will eventually cost $1.1 billion overall.
But newly-elected Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce president, Rishi Sookhai, yesterday called for consultation on the mega project, which is the brainchild of the George Aboud & Sons Ltd (GASL) group of companies. Sookhai, speaking with the T&T Guardian by phone, said the announcement of the billion-dollar project took him by surprise when he attended Planning Ministry’s public consultation on the proposed Implementation Strategy for the 4Cs Growth Pole in Couva yesterday.
“This was the first time I heard of this,” he said. Yesterday, GASL land developer and consultant, Dr Anthony Fifi, unveiled the 400,000 square-ft project at the consultation at the Couva Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce in Couva. He boasted that the mall would be the “most modern” in the country and would create 2,000 jobs during the construction phase, feature 300 businesses and provide 1,000 permanent jobs when completed.
Sookhai said yesterday that he welcomed the project, but admitted he had reservations given the current traffic congestion in Chaguanas. “The idea is a world-class idea, but the implementation of it is where we all have to come together if we want to see it done. We have to come together,” he said. He said while the megamall would bring an inflow of economic development to Chaguanas, they had to admit that “our infrastructure in terms of traffic is totally unacceptable as it is in the current position.”
At yesterday’s consultation it was also announced that six more ETek parks will be built in Chaguanas. Sookhai said coupled with those projects, the UWI open campus and the megamall, the question was how they would deal with the traffic issue that will be created. Boodan said he too welcomed all development in the central borough.
He said the mall has been in the works for the last four years and was initiated under former mayor Orlando Nagessar. He said the mall is part of a total development plan for Chaguanas, including an upgraded road network and new entrances and exits into and out the central borough. “It will not be isolated, it will flow into a whole total development plan,” he assured. He agreed there should be consultation, especially with the vendors who are currently housed at the old Chaguanas health centre compound.
He said that on Friday he will be holding the first of a series of consultations with all stakeholders on the project and the development of the region. “I am going to engage all the stakeholders in discussion,” Boodan said. “That is my approach, a bottom-up approach and hear the views, ideas, opinions, suggestions and even the criticism of the people also, as to how we should move forward. We need to deal with the traffic and will be starting the first level of consultation with people on Friday.”
Boodan also added that he will revisit the whole traffic development plan for Chaguanas, which he admitted is a “work in progress.”