|Transformation of St Clair
Thursday 8th July, 2004
This week we will examine St Clair more
closely, since very important changes are taking place in this
St Clair is the large, upper-income
residential district in the western part of Port-of-Spain. As shown by
the map, it is virtually triangular, with its eastern edge being Maraval
Road and its western extreme being the Harvard’s corner on Roxy
The district was established in the late
1800s as a first-class residential district, but this is now changing
with the incursion of the commercial users mentioned in the recent
series on PoS.
St Clair Avenue, which connects the Roxy
roundabout with the QRC roundabout, is a useful dividing line in that
commercial users are not generally allowed north of it.
The size of the St Clair lots and the
generous widths of its streets have made it one of the most preferred
locations for large, new commercial buildings.
The sheer volume of new commercial space
in St Clair suggests that there could be serious traffic problems there
within the next three years.
In the case of downtown PoS, when the
traffic and other problems got too great, we saw the beginning of
today’s commercial migration.
In St Clair, large quantities of capital
have been invested in commercial schemes with payback periods exceeding
10 years so there is little likelihood of another migration at anytime
in the near future.
In any case, the lack of suitable options
mean that the problems arising from these new St Clair developments
would have to be dealt with if these are not to also undermine the
success of the area as a commercial destination.
In the meantime, these features are
critical in understanding the role of St Clair:
Change of Use—The area now has a
large number of non-residential users and these would virtually all have
been liable to seek the State’s consent for change of use.
Apart from the large schemes detailed on
the map, there are a variety of other, smaller non-residential
users—some of these are the radio station 95.5FM, Bombay, various
advertising agencies and restaurants, the new Australian High Commission
at Herbert Street and the Body Academy Gym on Gray Street. As earlier
described, State policy is to make a flat charge per square foot for
this change of use.
The estate has traditionally been managed
by awaiting applications for change of use from leaseholders, but the
risk of this type of management is that, in the absence of an active
monitoring system, those who do not apply can escape without paying for
change of use.
The information as to the actual changes
of users is easily available via TTPost, TSTT or simply walking up the
street and making notes.
No prudent landlord would wait on his
tenants to notify him of situations where more monies were due. Good
public policy would have proactive management of State assets as a
One size fits all—As earlier
mentioned, this kind of policy can lead to serious losses to the public
The system of making flat rate charges
means that corner sites on Tragarete Road or St Clair Avenue are charged
the same as those on side streets for changes-of-use despite the obvious
differences in value.
Loss of opportunity—In the
medium-term, we can expect the upcoming release of reclaimed lands by
Udecott at Invader’s Bay (off the Audrey Jeffers’ Highway, near
MovieTowne) in large parcels for commercial use.
When we weigh the scale of the St Clair
schemes and the transformation of this elegant city district against the
ambitious proposals for the development of our neglected waterfront,
other aspects begin to emerge.
The growing commercial appetite for space
which is not in downtown is now being satisfied by using St Clair lands
and those on the Savannah fringes, so where is the momentum to come from
for the development of the waterfront?
Can there be enough commercial demand for
both to succeed?
Has there been a study of this question
and if not, is it now timely that we examine the future shape of our
capital more closely?
Next, we will begin to examine the
rapidly-growing city of Chaguanas.