Opinion: Marigot

POSTED: 02/13/13 12:38 PM

What is it with our town centers that they just do not flourish after sunset? In Philipsburg the explanation seems rather simple. Front Street is crammed with jewelry stores and these retailers go home at the beginning of the evening. Same for Back Street: there is a variety of retailers but the buzz that you get in, say, the center of Amsterdam, is obviously missing. Front Street is a creepy and badly lighted area after dark and it does not exactly invite people to go there for an evening stroll, unless they have a death wish or a hunger for the experience of an armed robbery. The board walk is also dead as a doornail in the evening, because almost all businesses close down by the end of the day. The real action in the evening is in Simpson Bay.
Marigot on the French side is not faring much better. The Collectivité  has invested in superior street lights though and that does make a difference. But as the French-side government itself gloomily concludes, the capital of Saint Martin is becoming more and more deserted – not only at night, but also during the day.

That is because shop after shop is closing its doors. Business is bad, while greedy property owners keep their rents high. Shoppers have moved to Grand Case, to the development in Hope Estate and of course to the Dutch side. Especially tourists with dollars in their pocket evade shopping on the French side where they will be hit by the expensive euro.

Still, during the day the waterfront in Marigot is a pleasant place to be with its unbeatable French bakeries like Sarafina and La Sucrière, its fish market and the always lively tourist market. No so in the evening though: after dark Marigot is really deserted. It is a place where people with bad intentions lurk in the dark, waiting for the unsuspecting tourists with too much gold hanging around their neck.

The Collectivité wants to do something about this situation and it seems that after the beautification Philipsburg underwent over the past couple of years, it is now the turn for our French counterparts to upgrade their main city. Maybe the French ought to take a good hard look at how Philipsburg did it so that it does not make the same mistakes.

The French have a budget of around $8 million available to revive Marigot. That seems like a rather pitiful amount, but we’re ready to wait for the first results before rendering judgment.

One of the measures the Collectivité has in mind is the introduction of paid parking in the center and the creation of alternative parking on the outskirts. One such facility is already open for business in Galis Bay – but for the time being hardly anybody ever parks there.

We figure that the paid parking plan is a thinly veiled tax increase that does little to revive the city center. As things are right now, the place is crammed with cars. Metered parking will only mean that people with a fat wallet will use this service while the have-nots are forced out of the way.

If the city manager the Collectivité wants to appoint has any balls at all, he will propose to turn for instance the Rue du General de Gaulle and the Rue de la Liberté into exclusive pedestrian zones. That will open the way for pleasant outdoor terraces and an environment free of stinking cars and noisy scooters. It will also create space for soft entertainment (think live unplugged jazz) that will attract people instead of chasing them away.

Now, if only the Collectivité could manage to indeed persuade property owners to upgrade the facades of their real estate, Marigot still has a fighting chance to become once more one of the jewels of the Caribbean. But will that ever become a reality?

 

 

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