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Save St George's

This should ring alarm bells: “There was no business. It's simple,” Cracker Box owner David Rowntree said. “We could not cover the costs. The economy and tourism in St George's are dead!”

Cracker Box in St George's is closing after more than three decades of business and AS Cooper's has pulled out of the Old Town. It would not be surprising if we start to see tumbleweed rolling down the town's streets.

But hang on this is a World Heritage Site. UNESCO has this to say on its website: “The Town of St George's, founded in 1612, is an outstanding example of the earliest English urban settlement in the New World.”

On July 15 last year, we wrote that Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation (BSBDC) research showed that around half of businesses in the Old Town were not able to pay themselves a regular salary.

According to our story the BSBDC pledged this could be turned around under an EEZ through incentives like small grants, larger interest free loans and tax breaks and pushing for the kind of Government support that has helped revitalise Dockyard in recent years.

They said they hoped to breathe new life into St George's by increasing cruise ships docking, making public transport more user friendly, better promotions and marketing of the town's heritage, more local entertainment and starting-up businesses based on St George's market.

In addition they said the town will be established as a duty-free zone, Government departments and boutique offices will be lured and public-private partnerships will be set up, while they will address crime concerns by pushing for a 24-hour operational police station. These things can take time, but how many have happened? It would be interesting to see.

According to our story yesterday Mr Rowntree said improved transport of tourists by bus and ferry to the East End could have helped, but last season transport was “completely unreliable” with repeated cancellations and breakdowns affecting the schedules.

Government has tried to lure cruise ships to St George's, but faces the problem that many cruise lines now employ their smaller ships the ones that will fit through Town Cut in Europe. Although it did bring in the

Veendam, that was always doomed to only partial success because weather conditions would mean it could only berth at Murray's Anchorage on a few occasions. Talk about widening Town Cut continues.

Loss of jobs and empty shops can create the kind of social conditions that can put off potential investors and Government is in a pickle with its budget and now has limited means through which to offer support.

However St George's should be the jewel in the crown, the same sort of effort we have seen in North East Hamilton and Dockyard should be put into the town, it is a crime not to. St George's needs a defibrillator before it dies before our eyes.

n To see in detail what UNESCO says about St George click here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/983

All to ourselves; Pedestrians make their way along deserted Water Street in St. Georges that has been hard hit by a struggling economy.

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Published March 31, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 31, 2012 at 8:59 am)

Save St George's

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