Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 18th 2016 Contents A6
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The Great Hall of President s House resembles a
war zone, as if a bomb went off, leaving a gaping hole
in the middle of a hall where public officials were
once sworn in to serve the country.
Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis made the
comparison to a bomb site as she peered over a wooden
barrier, constructed to keep people from toppling about
six feet into an open cavity.
The building is empty but for forgotten furniture,
Christmas decorations and a broken piano.
In one abandoned room, a glass sign for the Caribbean
Court of Justice was on the floor, surrounded by fallen
bits of concrete, paint that had flaked off walls and
boxes of left over bits.
With the exception of noises made by bats, the setting
provides a stillness in direct contrast to the importance
of past events held in the space years earlier.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley, who toured the house
last week, said it was an absolute disgrace.
The President now conducts official swearing-ins
and other official ceremonies in a small office in the
first level of the administrative building.
Robinson-Regis, chairman of the Urban Development
Corporation of T&T (Udecott) Noel Garcia and several
Udecott project managers and other employees, led
media through a tour yesterday of five historical buildings
to be restored by Government in the coming five years.
While Robinson-Regis denounced the prior govern-
ment for not keeping promises regarding the restoration
of the buildings, she promised that the People's National
Movement (PNM) Government viewed the restoration
of the buildings as a priority to take place within the
next five years.
The cost to repair the five buildings --- President's
House, the Red House, Whitehall, Stollmeyer's Castle
and Mille Fleurs --- will cost Government hundreds of
millions of dollars, with a significant chunk going toward
the Red House restoration.
Speaking to media yesterday, Robinson-Regis said
despite the economic situation the country was in,
having been declared to be in a recession late last year,
the Government was prepared to spend money to fix
the historical properties.
"If we don't do it now, it will get even worse, you
saw Mille Fleurs. Mille Fleurs may have to even be
demolished, given the state that it is in and another
five years is going to make it worse and it is going to
cost even more," Robinson-Regis said.
Mille Fleurs, one of the magnificent seven buildings
around the Queen's Park Savannah, is nearing crisis,
covered by a temporary galvanise roof to protect it from
the elements, the building is crumbling, with the floor
rotted through in some parts.
Project managers for the building said it may need
to be completely reconstructed.
Robinson-Regis added: "It is important that our her-
itage be restored and even during a time of stringency
there are some things that must be done and we feel
certain that this is very important for our history and
for our people going forward."
She said she was saddened that nothing had been
done to repair President's House over the past five years.
Robinson-Regis is a member of a restoration com-
mittee established to oversee the restoration of the five
The committee comprises Rowley, Finance Minister
Colm Imbert and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Robinson-Regis said the committee would determine
the eventual use of the properties and that would deter-
mine how they were renovated or restored.
The Red House remains the location of Parliament.
Plans to make Stollmeyer's Castle a protocol guest house
are being reviewed and Whitehall, once the office of
the Prime Minister, may still be used as such.
No decision has been made on Mille Fleurs, which
has remain untouched and unoccupied for over 20
Work on Stollmeyer's Castle is 85 per cent complete,
with most of the remaining work being external.
The Red House has been excavated but is still in
initial stages while at the President's House no recent
restoration has take place.
Garcia told reporters the major problem with Whitehall
was the roof, as the building had received a $20 million
restoration which was completed in 1996.
He said one of the suggestions Udecott would make
to the committee would be to appoint a curator for
each restored building so that the State did not find
itself with the recurring problem of having to restore
buildings frequently after spending taxpayers money.
"We need to ensure that the necessary maintenance
is done," Garcia added.
Architect Bernard Mackay is working with the State
on the restoration of the buildings.
Rowley is expected to give the public an update on
the properties in a press conference tomorrow.
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Money Mania jackpot now $22,500
Govt to spend $millions
to restore five buildings
Noel Garcia said
$110 million had
already been spent
on the Red House
would pump an
million into the
Garcia said to
bring the project to
a close, Udecott
would inject a
further $381 million
on construction of a
Complex --- phase
two --- taking the
total figure for the
iconic building to a
In 2012, then
chairman of the
National Trust, Vel
Lewis said the
budget to restore
Mille Fleurs would
be $32 million.
That same year,
Warner said that
the restoration of
would be completed
by the end of 2013
and would cost $4.5
By 2013, Zanim
Ali, director of the
said the figure for
the repairs would be
over $100 million.
Castle, also called
Killarney, is 85 per
cent complete with
the only external
work and the
upstairs balcony left
to be completed.
The main hall at President's House is observed by members of the touring party yesterday.
PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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