TOGETHER, WE CAN
The Office of Planning and Development, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the Garapan Revitalization Task Force, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and CNMI leaders broke ground last week on the much-anticipated Garapan Revitalization Project. I am very excited that we reached the construction phase of the project. The CNMI will be able to see the long-awaited improvements.
We know that the Garapan Core area has fallen into disrepair over the last couple of decades, and now we are finally doing something about it. The feedback received from the community has been very positive, and most have expressed their support in seeing a transformed Garapan Core area. I’m grateful that our community supports this project because it will re-establish Garapan as a destination for shopping, dining, festivals, and evening activities.
We’ll build new sidewalks, allowing everyone to walk or exercise there. New landscaping will make the Garapan Core more appealing to residents and visitors, and 350 new public parking spaces will be built, providing plenty of parking and walking space. This will be the most urbanized area in the Commonwealth, so residents can mingle with tourists and fellow residents daily.
I am eager to see a clearer delineation between private properties and public rights-of-way. This is very important for existing and future developments in the Garapan Core. I’m hoping to see some order in what has become a very unrestrained, disorganized area over the last few decades.
The funds that will be spent to mobilize this project will contribute to the CNMI economy almost immediately. Moreover, the long-term impact will undoubtedly be significant. The Garapan Revitalization Project aims to nurture an environment in which businesses can open, renovate, expand, and thrive.
Our long-term goal is to attract more businesses to the Garapan Core by providing a conducive environment for them to generate profit and tax revenue, which will then be recycled back into the community. Garapan’s economic output has a huge impact on Saipan and the entire CNMI because more businesses are located here than anywhere else in the Commonwealth. The Garapan Revitalization Task Force does not intrude into private matters between owners and tenants. We encourage all business owners and entrepreneurs to contact building or property owners directly if they are interested in renting commercial space in Garapan.
We are aware of the rubbish around the Garapan Core. At this time, the Task Force defers to the agencies in charge of enforcing the CNMI’s anti-litter law. We have no authority to impose sanctions. However, we can advise businesses to keep their properties litter-free, but it will be ineffective unless law enforcement officials begin citing violators.
We understand that several agencies have enforcement authority, and we can collaborate with them to keep this area as clean as possible. We want to encourage law enforcement to do everything within their power to prevent littering and issue citations when necessary. This will act as a deterrent to those who continue to break anti-littering laws. Eventually, we believe it is time to establish a Garapan Community Improvement District.
The nonprofit Garapan CID can collect assessments from commercial establishments in the special district for trash collection, landscaping, maintenance, and minor repairs of streets and fixtures. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of a CID had strong support, but it’s been on hold since. As we improve the area, it is time to revisit the proposal. Once this project is finished, we would like businesses to take ownership of the area since they will benefit directly. Experience has shown that the government can’t handle everything, so we only hope that everyone in our community pitches in.
I’d like to give special recognition to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration for funding this important project. Kudos to Gov. Torres, Lt. Gov. Palacios, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Office of U.S. Congressman Sablan, Garapan Revitalization Task Force members, all government agencies, the business community, landowners, tourism industry stakeholders, and our residents for their support of this project.
The hard work of improving the Commonwealth continues. Together, We Can!
For more information, visit the GCEA website at cnmieconomy.com. Engage with the Council on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy) or contact them at email@example.com.
Christopher A. Concepcion is the Garapan Revitalization Task Force chairman, the Office of Planning and Development deputy director, and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers’ executive director. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and International Relations and has had over 16 years of experience in the tourism and airline industries.