New Ministry of Social Development Building more modern than ‘rehabilitated’

Despite comments from the premier of Nevis, the Honourable Vance Amory, about “rehabilitating” and “keeping the character of” the former Ministry of Social Development Building on Government Road, a poster of a modern-designed building has been posted on the site for the new buildings.

In March, the two buildings that once housed the Ministry of Social Development were demolished and Amory revealed plans for the new buildings. He noted that the two buildings were being “rehabilitated” so they could provide the type of accommodations for government offices for the Ministry of Social Affairs.

“The idea is to keep the character of the two buildings, then we link the two buildings with space that exist,” he said. “I am suggesting going up so that we have two floors of space. And these are buildings that will have a period look, but which we will remodel. I think we will be able to house more than just the Ministry of Social Development.”

The proposed model depicts a two-story modern structure with glass windows. The Observer cannot confirm if the stones of the previous building will be use, though stone rubble is piled behind the sixth form college in Nevis.

The construction of a modern building may have a negative impact on Charlestown’s attempt to become a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS) has made known its displeasure with the tearing down of the historic buildings.

“The Nevis Historical and Conservation Society remains committed to the sustainable development of historical and cultural assets, as well as the natural resources of Nevis,” said the society in a statement. “We were advised of the possible rehabilitation and clearing of the Old Hospital Complex on Government Road, with plans for later construction of offices by Nevis Island Administration. Sadly, to our dismay, the works actually witnessed at this site amounts to wanton demolition of a site of both historical and cultural significance to the communities bordering Government Road and the wider Nevis populace. We are indeed very disappointed that the ministry involved in this action attests to having the wants and needs of the community and its social well-being at its heart.

“Our society has placed on record our concerns and the need for immediate remedial action to both the Department of Physical Planning and Community Development. With proper reconstructive action to recover the stone work and replanting of trees, the old site with its landmarks can ideally be incorporated into any new planned design.

Evelyn Henville, the executive chair of the Heritage World Committee, outlined in a previous interview with the Observer the importance of having Charlestown as a UNESCO Heritage Site. “The designation of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO will not continue forever,” she said. “Nevis now has the opportunity to get into this elite list of countries before the designation is discontinued. We have one of the most important histories in the Caribbean.

“Our country, as small as it is, has made one of the biggest impacts on world history. That is one of the main criteria you have to show: universal value to the rest of the world. When we look at the history of Nevis, it is so overwhelmingly strong and connected to the rest of the world, we have no choice but to seek world heritage status,” she said.