The shops, which were destroyed by fire on November 9, 2014, underwent extensive renovation works at a cost of $14 million dollars by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). The project was managed by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo).
Dr. McNeill said the fire had left 18 traders without a venue to carry out their trade on the eve of their fastest selling season between December and February. This triggered an emergency response from TPDCo and the TEF, and a commitment by the Ministry to activate an interim plan to get the traders back in business before Christmas.
“I want to commend the contractor (Alphonso Reynolds of Marshals Construction Limited) who worked day and night (to do the project on time and within budget). They have given the best Christmas present to the craft traders at the Old Fort Craft Market and Heritage Centre,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that medium term plans are being put in place to further develop the historical landmark on which the tourist attraction is located.
“There is a plan for us to look at what would happen with ‘Old Fort’ which has such potential, more so than we are utilising now and we have asked the new Craft Council – chaired by Mrs. Mary-Helen Reece -to look at it and determine how we are going to move forward,” the Minister said.
A group of craft traders, led by President of the Old Fort Craft Market and Heritage Centre Craft Traders Association, Ruby Barrett, took the Minister; Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Glendon Harris, and Executive Director of the TPDCo, Dennis Hickey, on a tour of the facilities, following the opening ceremony.
Mrs. Barrett expressed gratitude for the quick response of TPDCo, TEF and Senator Noel Sloley in getting the project completed in six weeks.
She also appealed to the Minister to assist the traders worst affected by the fire, to access funds to replenish their inventory.
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