By TAUREEF MOHAMMED | Triniad & Tobago Guardian Online | Monday, July 15, 2013.
The expected completion date for restoration works on the Red House has been pushed back to January 2016, the Urban Development Company of T&T (Udecott) has stated. In February, based on information from Udecott, the T&T Guardian reported that the restoration project would be completed by the first quarter of 2015. The project was initially expected to be completed by December 2014, the T&T Guardian report stated.
According to Udecott, the discovery of human bones and project management issues caused delays. In April, the human bones, which date between 430 AD and 1390 AD, were discovered during excavation work on the building located on Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. “Work has slowed considerably due to the recent discovery of the bones. We had to pause because the area is critical to people in T&T,” a source from Udecott said.
At present, an archaeological team is working in the area where the bones were discovered, while work in the surrounding areas continues, the source said. Describing the work being done on the iconic building as “preliminary,” the Udecott source said the “real” restoration work hasn’t started. The Udecott official said designs are currently being formulated by a historical architect.
After the designs are completed tenders for the restoration work would go out, the source said. According to an e-mail from Udecott, work under Udecott’s tenure began in 2005 and has cost the company $84,180,037.04 so far. Restoration works on the “home of the Parliament” started under the National Insurance Property Development Company (Nipdec) more than ten years ago, according to newspaper reports.
In 2011, the People’s Partnership Government announced that taxpayers had spent $200 million over an eight-year period on the restoration of the historic building. Based on information on Nipdec’s Web site, the “full-scale” restoration was expected to cost $100 million over a five-year period. In October 2011, the Parliament moved to the International Waterfront Centre on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, to clear the way for restoration work.
Preliminary works done on the building include construction of an underground plant room at the western side of the compound, construction of a temporary roof above the South Chamber and the South Link, dilapidation surveys, demolition of modern-era construction elements, asbestos removal and excavation of the foundation.
• Stollmeyer’s Castle: expected completion—December 2013; 90 per cent complete
• Whitehall: scope of works being developed
• President’s House: expected completion—2015; preliminary work to start in August
• Red House: expected completion—January 2016; preliminary work ongoing.'
Although work has recently slowed, the restoration of Stollmeyer’s Castle is expected be completed by December of this year. The building is one of the Magnificent Seven and is located at Queen’s Park Savannah West, Port-of-Spain. According to an e-mail from Udecott, restoration work began in January 2008 and is now 90 per cent complete. In an interview, a source from Udecott said work on the building has slowed because the company was awaiting funding from the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The funding is expected any time now. Once we receive that funding, work should be completed within three months,” the source said. The contractor is doing remedial work which involves correcting minor defects in and around the building, the source said. The historic building, originally called Killarney, was initially earmarked to be used as a “protocol house” for visiting dignitaries.
However, according to the source, the use of the historic building has not been finalised, but the Office of the President has expressed interest in it. The Udecott source said the scope of works for Whitehall is still being developed and restoration work has not started.
“Once the scope of works is finalised, a budget will be determined and then the project will go out for tender.”
Meanwhile, restoration work on President’s House, which falls under the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, is expected to be completed in the latter part of 2015, according to Zanim Ali, director of construction at the ministry. Asked if any work has been done on the building located on Circular Road, St Ann’s, he said: “No work has been done except for a temporary roof over the collapsed part.”
Ali said he is “hoping” that preliminary work, which involves building a temporary roof over the structure, would begin in August. The tendering process for the complete restoration, he said, would begin in November. According to a T&T Guardian report in March, Ali said work was earmarked to begin in May. Ali said the layout of the President’s House has been finalised but needs to be validated by President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona.
The initial design of the restored building, which was completed in 2007, had to be changed due to the collapse of part of the building in May 2010, he said. The designs are now being finalised, he added.
Office of the President
Stollmeyer’s Castle and Whitehall have been earmarked by the Cabinet and President Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona as prospective locations for the Office of the President. In a telephone interview, Napier Tillai, executive director to the President, said Cabinet has been in discussions with the President on the issue of the location of the Office of the President.
“Two possible locations came up—Stollmeyer’s Castle and Whitehall—but no decision has been made and discussions are still ongoing.” At present, Tillai said, the Office of the President is located at Circular Road, St Ann’s. In March, Minister of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs, Dr Roodal Moonilal, described Whitehall as a good facility for the Office of the President.