The plan to revitalize the core tourist district of Garapan was presented to the public last Thursday, April 14, at the American Memorial Park Visitor Center, with officials handling the project reporting a 60% progress in their architecture and design phase.
Christopher A. Concepcion, who is the deputy director of the Office of Planning and Development and is the Garapan Revitalization Task Force chairman, and project manager Timothy Lang first played a PowerPoint presentation that showed slides of the street plans that have been laid out so far, then gave way to the public to raise questions or concerns about the presentation.
Concepcion said the goal of the task force is to transform Garapan into a premier 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.
The project will involve repairing and repaving Garapan’s streets, maintaining existing storm water drainages, maximizing on-street parking consisting of 95 parking spaces, constructing new concrete sidewalks and curbs, planting new trees and landscaping, installing new street lights, installing bike lanes and shared streets, and opening up Paseo de Marianas into a two-way street as a hybrid street and event space.
The streets within Garapan that are included in the plan is from Beach Road, north of Garapan Street, to Royal Palm Avenue, Coffee Tree Mall, Ginger Avenue, Plumeria Avenue, Coconut Street, Date Street, Paseo de Marianas, Palm Street, and the Micro Beach Road, south sidewalks.
“We will repave Garapan core streets, add sidewalks, curbs, lighting, landscaping, and will maximize on-street parking within the public rights of way. We are excited about the future of the Garapan core,” Concepcion said in an interview last week prior to the presentation.
In attendance Thursday were some officials, small business owners around the Garapan area, landowners, and other members of the public.
Some concerns raised by small business owners in Garapan were that the trees, plants, and decorations that will be set up around the area will create a lot of debris when typhoons or storms hit, as well as issues of who will be responsible for maintenance and cleanliness.
Lang addressed these concern by saying that the trees planted will be “low maintenance plants. We don’t want stuff that you have to water. We don’t want stuff that needs tender loving care. Hardy local plants are what we’re requiring in the design.”
In addressing the maintenance issue, Lang said, “There’s a community improvement district that is in the works. And that is a special district…which gives the businesses and the residents of the area some autonomy and some sort of self-governance. And they’re able to collect fees…and they could raise the money that could help maintain the plants and landscaping, which honestly, I’m hoping is not going to be a lot.”
Concepcion acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with the timeline of the project. “In December 2019, after months of putting tons of documents together and right before we knew anything about COVID-19, we submitted our grant application to the Economic Development Administration. …COVID-19 hit us just a couple of months later in the early part of 2020 and the CNMI and the rest of the world pretty much shut down, and that delayed the start of this project, but we never stopped working. Throughout 2020, we went back and forth with [the Economic Development Administration] and multiple other local and federal agencies on additional documents required, forms needing submittal, applications needing signatures and all that bureaucratic stuff,” said Concepcion.
The EDA grant was awarded in February 2021 and the initial construction will begin in August this year, which will take about 18-24 months for completion.
The EDA under the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the CNMI $11.2 million to fund the project.