The up and coming Montego Bay Cultural Centre is near and dear to Round Hill’s heart, as our very own Josef Forstmayr (who chairs the 14-member Montego Bay Arts Council) has been a driving force behind this $62 million rehabilitation of the 12-year old Montego Bay Civic Centre. “There will be a gift shop, a bistro which will display the best of Jamaican food; there will be an artisan village where we will have artisans in residence that will do productive work there; there will be poetry reading, music, dance…..,” an elated Forstmyar told the Jamaica Observer West. Parts of the new centre will serve as a branch of the National Museum as well as the National Gallery, and other improvements include the installation of elevators, generators, water pumps, security cameras, and major repairs to sanitary conveniences.
The original Civic Centre was built on the ruins of the old court house that was destroyed by a fire over 40 years ago, and became the centerpiece of Sam Sharpe Square. Costing $155 million, the facility was funded by the Venezuelans under the San Jose Accord and handed over to the St James Parish Council after it was opened in October 2001. Over time, however, the desire to transform the facility into a heritage and cultural centre became more and more apparent, and the current rehabilitation aims to turn the centre into a destination for residents and tourists alike.
“This civic centre has been sitting there as a white elephant for a long time, so now we are giving it some life and excitement and making it into a place where people can take their friends, their families after church on a Sunday…. they will also be open on Saturdays, as well,” Forstmayr explained to the Jamaica Observer West. “It is all being done first-class, so that we can all be proud of it,” he stressed, adding, “We are hoping to attract locals and tourists alike.”
As part of the bigger picture, there is much hope that this rehabilitation will stimulate redevelopment of downtown Montego Bay. Suzette Brown, the councillor for the Montego Bay South Division, where the centre is located, states that the works being undertaken at the facility go hand-in-hand with improvements to the Dome monument, the Harbour Street Craft Market and those to be done on the Fruit and Vegetable Market and the Fish Market at William Street in the resort city.
“The development represents overall a significant investment by the TEF, and we look forward to the requisite spin-offs; what with the citing of the National Museum West, National Gallery West and the development of a City Tour to include other historical sites in the locale,” Brown argued.
Meanwhile, President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nathan Robb told the Observer West that his organisation is in full support of the initiative. “The Montego Bay Chamber is in full support of the opening of the facility. It is a facility which should have been here long ago, and one that we hope will begin to fully promote the cultural and arts aspect of our heritage and our tourism,” he said.
Visit the new Montego Bay Cultural Centre which will open to the public on July 12, 2014.
Official opening on July 11, 2014
Open to the public on July 12, 2014
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
FREE Admission until September 30, 2014.
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