Reviving Fort Charlotte
- Impetus to re-establish Lucea's once premier attraction
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
The planned rehabilitation of Fort Charlotte in Lucea, Hanover, is gaining momentum, more than eight years after the plan was conceptualised.
"We are now getting somewhere. We are now at a stage where we are waiting for the completion of infrastructure on some parish council lands to relocate the National Works Agency, which now occupies facilities at Fort Charlotte," said Mayor of Lucea Lloyd Hill.
"We are seeking full acquisition ... . Right now, we have only oversight responsibility, but we cannot talk about development until we fully own it."
According to Hill, who is the councillor of the Sandy Bay division, investors with an interest in the proposed development will have to be prepared to partner with the Hanover Parish Council.
"We have no intention of divesting entirely, but would prefer a partnership arrangement."
The council first opened acquisition talks with the Office of the Commissioner of Lands for Fort Charlotte - easily Hanover's most famous attraction - in 1996. Once the parish's premier attraction, the facility was closed in 1993 due to safety concerns.
Preserving georgian architecture
In 2001, the Tourism Product Development Company allocated $2 million for restoration work at the fort. The plans included the retention of the fort's Georgian style and construction of facilities such as an amphitheatre, museum, restaurants and gift shops.
In October 2003, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson made a plea for joint-venture partnerships between the Government and private-sector interests for its restoration.
Former Hanover Chamber of Commerce president, Theo Chambers, is also of the view that "the people of Hanover" should seek to have full ownership of the facility and then pursue a joint-venture arrangement.
"I envision a Lucea becoming like a Las Vegas, coming alive after 5 o' clock and a refurbished Fort Charlotte is key to this becoming a reality," he said. "The right kind of businesses - such as craft [shops] and spas - could be the impetus needed for the parish."
Added Chambers: " ... but the project must be owned by the people, the small man must be able to take some of his savings and buy some stock in the project and know that he also owns this business."
He said that the plan must include a bypass for the town, and the operations at the Fiesta Hotel and Dolphin Cove could spark the Lucea's town's development.
"Fort Charlotte is so breathtaking; Lucea needs it. You have Round Hill and Tryall (hotels) near to St James and Sandals and the others near to Westmoreland, but nothing happening in the centre of the parish," Chambers noted.
"Millions of dollars travel between Montego Bay and Negril, and has created the misconception that some of these facilities belong to the neighbouring parishes, so Fort Charlotte is key."
A crucial piece of the development puzzle is the town being given resort-town status, and being able to set up its own board. But Chambers believes that partisan politics is responsible for the lack of progress.
"We suffer from implementation deficit disorder," he charged. "Our political position cannot be at the expense or detriment of the people of Hanover."
But Mayor Hill disagrees.
"I can't say that there has been political consideration behind the reason we have not gotten the attention that we are asking for at this time. It was just not happening," he said. "We have not seen anything coming forthwith, but we continue to make representation in this regard."