The Brian Lara Promenade
The primary goal of the urban enhancement initiative was to restore
Independence Square to its former stature. There was a wealth of information
to draw on, dating back to the nineteen sixties, when several plans and
designs with respect to upgrading the square had been circulated. In
addition, numerous ideas and proposals were being generated through
discussions with the major stakeholders on the project.
NIPDEC, as facilitator, undertook a comprehensive pedestrian survey, user
surveys and observation exercises on movement within the square, both day
and night. This massive collaborative effort would eventually result in the
creation of a series of self-contained parks, walkways and recreation areas
which spanned the length of the square and would eventually become known as
the Brian Lara Promenade.
The core element and most obvious feature of the urban rehabilitation
initiative, the Promenade was designed by a team of local professionals,
lead by the architectural firm of Colin Laird Associates, who supervised
construction works. Funding came from three sources – Government, State
Enterprises and the private sector. Construction of the Promenade began in
1992, and with the rehabilitation of the first two squares, the project
sparked a wellspring of popular support which increased as people saw each
square take shape and develop.
The Promenade is managed by an Association comprised of representatives of
those businesses located on Independence Square itself. These businesses
support the day-to-day maintenance of the Promenade through membership fees,
which are based on the square footage of their property along Independence
Square. The Association also receives funding through the State and private
sector and generates revenue through charging user fees for the numerous
activities which take place on the Promenade.
Although each of the ten squares of the Promenade has its own design, the
inter-locking blocks, shady trees and comfortable seating patterns common to
each unit bind the entire kilometre into a cohesive whole. In addition,
underground irrigation systems have been developed to provide a reliable
source of water, and the walkways have been designed to anticipate the major
routes of pedestrian traffic. Indeed, all design elements take into account
the critical factors of ongoing maintenance and continued operation.
As each square traverses a separate district, variations in design have been
incorporated within the dominant theme to reflect the distinct
characteristics of the respective neighbourhoods and to ensure a balanced
mix of both quiet and active areas. Travelling through the squares, the
environment slowly evolves from the distinctly conservative, calm atmosphere
of Bankers Row at the western end, all the way through to the young urban
beat of the fast food
outlets and trendy boutiques surrounding Cipriani Statute to the east.
A central stage located on one of the squares is the site of numerous
cultural activities throughout the year, and with its pleasant, relaxed
atmosphere, comfortable benches, tables for chess or draughts, beautiful
greenery and numerous small restaurants surrounding the area, the Promenade
has become the most popular venue in Port of Spain.
The restoration of Independence Square to its former glory has signified the
revival of Port of Spain to an extent which has far exceeded the
expectations of those involved. The Promenade is the first Business
Improvement District (BID) in the country, and other municipalities such as
Chaguanas, have expressed a desire to create similar BIDs, having witnessed
its spectacular success.