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Anglican Bishop, PM thrilled by $6m restoration of Hayes Court

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Narissa Fraser The Prime Minister cuts the ribbon during the handing-over of Hayes Court, Port of Spain. From left: Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez, Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga, Bishop Claude Berkley, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young, Udecott CEO Tamica Charles-Phillips and Udecott chairman Noel Garcia. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle
The Prime Minister cuts the ribbon during the handing-over of Hayes Court, Port of Spain. From left: Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez, Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga, Bishop Claude Berkley, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young, Udecott CEO Tamica Charles-Phillips and Udecott chairman Noel Garcia. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

ANGLICAN Bishop Claude Berkley and the Prime Minister are thrilled that the restoration of Hayes Court – one of Port of Spain's Magnificent Seven buildings and originally the official residence of Anglican bishops of TT – is finally complete.

On Tuesday, the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) held a handing-over ceremony for the restored building, which is at the corner of Hayes Street and Queen's Park West.

Built in 1910, the building has undergone a total of $6,606,152.29 in restorative work.

Berkley said since he became bishop in 2011, he had suffered "many years of indignity, insult, rebuke and otherwise" for the condition of the building, "even if (I) might have come long after...But once you are in the spot, you take the heat."

Hayes Court, Port of Spain. Photo by Angelo Marcelle

He recalled a survey which budgeted the restoration of the building at $24 million, but, "My immediate thought was that we should push it down and build something of modern elegance for $6 million...I was thinking economics and, perhaps, commerce."

But some women from a parish he preferred not to name had overheard him and "scolded and warned" that "no such thing was to engage my mind."

Eventually, he said, they appealed to Dr Rowley for help.

Rowley, he said, responded during the height of the covid19 pandemic, suggesting the government would "try to match" whatever amount the Anglican Board and its trustees could contribute.

"Such generosity, such kindness we had not heard before...We were happy to hear it."

Berkley said the ceremony reinforced the history of progress and good taste that comes with collaborations between the State and the church.

"When we work together, we can move mountains...we can restore Hayes Court...a cathedral, even," he said, laughing.

This was a subtle reference to ongoing restorative work on the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port of Spain.

Rowley said it was a "happy day" not just for him but for all Anglicans and the general public.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley speaks during the handing over ceremony of Hayes Court, Port of Spain on Tuesday. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

He said the fact that this building was almost torn down, along with its neighnbour, the state-owned Mille Fleurs, was "reprehensible.

"It would have been a painful punch in the solar plexus of the nation...the entire nation would have mourned that action." He said TT's "priceless legacy" must be preserved.

While money is the driving force in these types of projects, Rowley said, having the patience and the willpower to do it is just as important.

Restoration is far from cheap, he said, but is "worth every dollar, and the effect it has on us ought to be a benefit."

Rowley said the government has no plans to "disembowel" the capital city but to strengthen it so it can be "centralised for the better."

Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said he felt proud to witness the restoration, adding that the building "holds a special significance in the history of our community.

"It marks a new beginning, a fresh start and an exciting opportunity to build upon the past and create a better future."

Speaking to media after the ceremony, Berkley said he felt elated and fulfilled as it was cause for celebration.

He has no immediate plans to move into the building, which was most recently used for administrative offices.

"We will see what is the best use we can make of it so it is used regularly every day, and for the most efficient reach and service of our constituency and the wider nation. In due course, that will happen.

"Before that we will utilise the building in many different ways."