Bringing Garapan back to life

Posted on Aug 09 2019


Fourth part of a series

One idea can move people, unity can build a city, and commitment lays a good foundation for achieving long-term goals.

That much is clear when it comes to the Garapan Revitalization Plan, where residents, businesses, and government agencies are convinced that checking all the boxes in that trifecta can bring life back to Garapan.

The idea is to replicate the success of Waikiki in Hawaii as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Unity is getting together residents, business people, and government agencies to form a task force that will work on this idea. And the foundation will be the Garapan Revitalization Plan that is buttressed by the Office of Planning and Development under the Office of the Governor.

The GRTF envisions Garapan to be a premiere family-friendly destination, featuring a wide range of shopping, dining, entertainment, civic, and commercial uses in a world-class beach resort setting that is attractive for visitors and residents.

“We envision Garapan becoming a mini-Waikiki of Hawaii, a mini-Omotesando of Japan, a mini version of a world class downtown area found in all major destinations,” said OPD deputy director Chris Concepcion. “Tourists will see the improvements, take photos, blog about them, share them on social media and from there the word will spread that the Marianas are again a vibrant, renewed, beautiful destination worth spending money to visit. Investors will take note, businesses will want to move to Garapan.”

To distill the Waikiki experience, the CNMI is turning to the people behind Waikiki’s rebirth: former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann and his partners, Rick Egged and Greg Hirata.

Local residents know as much about the need for a better experience for tourists. If the CNMI wants a strong tourism industry and good word-of-mouth, we need to leave tourists with good impressions, said one resident. “Marpi, with all the World War II history, and the beaches make great stories for tourists to tell when they leave, but if you ask me about Garapan, if it makes an impression at all, it’s probably not a good one.”

Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Velma Palacios said the GRTF has the support of the business community. “Private and public sector collaboration is always a win-win for the community.”

“Garapan is indeed the heart of Saipan’s tourism industry. We would like our tourists to experience a safe, family-friendly destination as they walk through Garapan. Having this type of atmosphere will allow tourists to stop by the businesses in the area and provide support to our economy. Guam and Honolulu have a similar tourist district, Tumon and Waikiki, respectively and we hope for the same concept for Garapan,” she added.

Speaking at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting last Wednesday at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe, Chamber director Alex Sablan invited other Chamber members to join the discussion about revitalizing Garapan as the premiere destination in the Western Pacific.

Among the improvements being looked at this early are installing underground power lines and redesigning the western part of Garapan and the Garapan core “so that we can receive the international market that we are looking for, which is quality over quantity.”

According to Saipan Tribune archives, a total of $1.4 million was allotted by the MVA last year to upgrade the Paseo de Marianas in Garapan.

Part of the plan was, first, to clear and move everything that is in the middle of Paseo, so if you are standing at the Beach Road side, you will see everything up to Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan. Second, to construct a manmade river surrounded by blue flax stones, which will create an environment that is relaxing. Third, a plan to plant palm trees and villa on both sides of the Paseo and add more plants. Fourth, a Japanese shrine will be built as a historical site and attraction.

Concepcion said that they are working with the MVA for the Garapan Revitalization Plan. “We want to use their plans to supplement ours. It will be a good collaboration.”

“ I strongly feel…that if the CNMI were to focus its efforts on revitalizing Garapan now, it will begin a positive cycle that will have ripple effects for the rest of Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands… and once again the area will becomes the focal point for the community,” he added.

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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