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Project Overview

The RDIFund project: “Leveraging Built and Cultural Heritage for Economic Development in East Port of Spain can be considered a success, gaining admiration from not just academics, policymakers and urban planners, but also nationwide respect and community support from the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

In support of a previous initiative proposed by the Heritage City Growth Pole Initiative, the project sought to understand the built and cultural assets within the communities of East Port of Spain as it was known locally to possess a rich heritage. Taking it a step further, the project also identified strategies by reviewing international models that were used to leverage heritage assets to stimulate economic development.

Archival research provided a historical framework that guided the establishment of inventories of  built and cultural heritage. The physical inventories were also supplemented by oral histories to define what these assets meant to the community. The assets in these inventories were also mapped using a Geographic Information System (GIS) which was then followed by subsequent analysis which identified key conglomerates of assets, which could justify further investment.  Supplementing this information also was the utilization of the Participatory 3 Dimensional model (8ft x8ft), which was utilised by the project team to ascertain the community’s perspective of heritage within East Port of Spain. A time lapse video was used to demonstrate its construction and participation of members in the community.

Additionally, an understanding of the various urban and regional planning documents for the area was also achieved, as well as potential innovation strategies were outlined recommended to leverage built and cultural heritage for depressed inner city revitalization in the Trinidadian context, and for the potential of testing this model in other cities in the region.

Project Updates:

RDIFund East Port of Spain Project at CUF 2014

RDIFund Update 2016

Reports and Databases:
An Inventory Of Resources And Sources On East Port Of Spain Cultural Heritage
East Port Of Spain – Historical Framework [Draft]
East Port Of Spain – Project Database
Rationalized East Port Of Spain Growth Pole And Heritage Site Plan
East Port of Spain Built and Cultural Heritage Interactive Map

3D Community Model of East Port of Spain, Trinidad (Digital Basemap):

Articles and other media


The third Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF) was scheduled for the 13th – 15th March 2013, and held at the Hilton, Trinidad.  This conference focused on five thematic areas:

1. The Green Urban Economy Post Rio +20;

2. The Evolving Caribbean Urban Agenda;

3. Local Governance and Community Engagement in the Development Process;

4. Heritage and Culture in the Revitalization of Inner-city Neighborhoods;

5. Professional Planning Practice, Education & Training in the Caribbean.

Under theme 4, the Research and Development Impact (RDI) Fund, participated in this conference with a presentation entitled “Leveraging Built and Cultural Heritage for Economic Development in East Port of Spain.” This panel comprised of five members, four of which presented on relevant areas of the project and a chairperson:

  • “Evolution of Settlement structure and planning In East Port of Spain” – Dr. Asad Mohammed (UWI)
  • “Historical Framework of East Port of Spain”- Professor Bridget Brereton (Emeritus, UWI)
  • “Methodology for retrospective mapping”- Dr. Bheshem Ramlal (UWI)
  •  Community Perspectives-  Wayne Jordon (East Port of Spain Council of Community Organizations)

Below is an overview of the presentations given by the RDIFund panel.

Historical Framework of East Port of Spain: Bridget Brereton

As described by the presenter, EPOS is very diverse in built and cultural heritage, which can be traced from as early as the 1700s. The area can be defined as a “creole space” as it comprises of persons primarily of African descent.

She explained that all areas were settled and developed in an unplanned haphazard way. It was a fishing village under Spanish rule. During the period of English rule (1800’s) it evolved into a small but busy port. Emancipation of the slave population allowed the movement of the ex-slaves into the hilly areas. Migrants also included ex- slaves and their descendants from small islands. The Indians, Chinese and Lebanese and other people settled there.

Because the former ex-slaves were at the bottom of the area, the area acquired a reputation of being and impoverished area. The population density was high and in-migration expanded.

However, EPOS always included middle class populations that were located in Belmont and Success village.

In EPOS, the built heritage is considered to be rich and diverse. The area contains many historical structures of the 1800’s inclusive of churches and even low income housing. Since then, a loss of built heritage has occurred but a few of historical structures still remain. One of the oldest structure that can be found is the Fort Picton, Mortello Tower, similar to the one found in England.  Another historical landmark is the Fort Chacon which was the famous place where the Meridian was fixed for the New World.

In the community of Belmont the upper middle class stratum as well as some of the middle class sub-urban houses designed by George Brown could be found. Many Christian churches are also located there for example, the St Francis of Azzi Church and St Margaret’s Anglican Church. The area was predominantly a Christian area as evidenced by the Calvary Hill Stations of the Cross.

In the 1930’s there was a slum clearance by the colonial government in the Gonzales and Morvant areas. Low income housing schemes were built to accommodate the lower classes, and these still remain as part of the built heritage of EPOS.

Cultural Heritage

According to Professor Brereton, EPOS abounds with important cultural heritage sites. The whole of EPOS is considered a heritage site for the origin of the African people and cultures of the West African people are still practiced. The East Dry River is also considered a social and cultural site used for playing games, sailing boats and also serves as a passage for residents in the dry season. Calvary Hill is also considered a cultural site. The area is rich in pan calypso, jazz and classical music.  It is known that American movies had exercised an influence on the carnival and steel band names. “La cour park” and “hell yard” were where the steel pan originated.

Evolution of Settlement structure and planning In East Port of Spain – Asad Mohammed

For this presentation, an overview of the goals and objectives of the RDI Fund project was given with the intent to understand the built and cultural heritage in the EPOS area. It was also noted that the project is aimed at assisting the government with the establishment of the Heritage City Growth Pole Initiative (HCGPI).

For this presentation, various maps were used to depict the general layout and settlement patterns of th area, for example the Sorzano’s Map, 1845, depicted an illustration the formal and informal parts of EPOS at the time. The map showed a clear grid layout, to its left. It was also explained that there was a social and historical divide of the East Dry River which separated the fragmented structure of development. However, also noted was the lack of infrastructure depicted in this map.  Following this, another map was shown. This illustrated the current settlement pattern within the area but as mentioned by the presenter, the community and settlement pattern were not easily discernible.

With respect to the planning and development of the area, a number of development plans had been formulated in the past for EPOS. He noted that such plans have treated EPOS as a large homogeneous area. It was also noted that most of the lands were tenanted lands that were subdivided and rented out. They were owned by the free brown creoles. The presentation ended with the illustration of the 2007 map done by the East Port of Spain Development Company Limited which depicted the exisiting sub structure of the communities.

Methodology for retrospective mapping – Bhesham Ramlal

Dr. Ramlal started off his presentation noting that his work is following and is dependent on the previous researchers. His presentation focused on the methodology of his section.  He mentioned that various sources of data will be used to map the history and evolution of EPOS in terms of a geographical space and noted that Epos is not the same it is quite different.

He also stated that as part of his methodology it is important to identify the needs of the EPOS stakeholders. The main sources of his data, thus far, comprised mainly of maps from UWI, lands and surveys division, library and British archives, books.

Additionally, he mentioned that audio and videos as well as a participatory 3D mapping exercise will also be utilized to assist in the assimilation of the spatial data and record historical assets of the area.

Community Perspectives – Wayne Jordan

The community representative, Wayne Jordan has been working in the area for 27years. Together with Dr. Deborah Thomas from the East Port of Spain Development Company Limited and other relevant organizations and he has been trying to seek the people’s interest. Though his presentation was brief, he conveyed that the community of EPOS is generally unsatisfied and disrespected. “All they want is to see things materialize.”


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