The Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority authorized a plan on Oct. 28 to classify Hagåtña as an economic zone.

The plan intends to make money for the island and also showcase Guam’s culture.

If the plan is successful it may change the face of Guam’s capitol in the next two years using tax breaks as an incentive.

GEDCA will offer incentives such as qualifying certificates and start-up capital. However loans are currently only offered if the business or entrepreneur is unable to receive a loan from traditional lending institutions.

As reported in the story “Has hoary Hagatna found fountain of youth?” in the Sept. 5 edition of the Journal the Hagatna Restoration and Redevelopment Authority and GEDCA are working on a master development plan for Hagatna. In May GEDCA signed a memorandum of understanding with the HRRA on that plan.

GEDCA came up with a cultural destination development plan to compliment the authority’s effort.

According to the plan “Kottura (culture) will be a culturally-based economic zone concept that will be a core element in:

1) The revitalization of Guam’s capital city of Hagatna;

2) The preservation of the Chamorro culture and arts; and

3) The diversification and expansion of Guam’s revenue base utilizing existing opportunities.

Kottura will be a long-range plan that will be divided into phases over a period of 10 years.” Kottura also looks to encourage economic development cultural preservation and artistic accessibility.

The plan also states “Kottura will focus primarily on the family market segment for visitors and residents. The project will initially encompass renovation and development of major landmark locations and facilities in a strategic geographical footprint of the Hagatna downtown area along with the integration of economic incentives to develop various business opportunities.”

R. Greg Sablan industry development specialist with GEDCA developed the concept and on Oct. 28 the GEDCA board approved the plan. The HRRA also officially received the plan and is including it in its master plan. “I hope that we can create that brand image. I cannot stop stressing that point. I would like to see a new brand image and a secondary destination for Guam to expand tourism and also enhance promote our culture all in one contiguous space ” Sablan said.

He told the Journal some of the possibilities for development are commercial zoning with economic incentives such as qualifying certificates cultural thematic common areas unique retailing dining and entertainment amenities museum and gallery facilities performing arts facilities and venues a market place multipurpose arena convention and meeting facilities historical parks and gardens family gathering and walking areas and government offices and facilities.

“In Hawaii they have these nice awnings and trees. We need to improve the landscape. We need nice trees and flowers. The official flower of Guam — the bougainvillea — is nowhere in Agana. I’d like to see waterscapes to cool the environment. We used to have a nice water fountain at Skinner Plaza now we have that concrete performance showcase no waterscapes. There’s no lights down there. Nobody wants to go down there at night.”

Sablan said Guam’s culture was always referred to but no action was taken to promote it. “We are always touting a unique culture that no one else has but it’s always filed in the back of the filing cabinet. We’re always promoting that overseas but when a visitor comes here the five-star hotels are pushed all the time and shopping and the culture gets pushed to the wayside. I’d like to see it promoted more because I think more people would get active if there were more events to display their art and showcase it.”

Sablan said the Kottura model has a three-pronged approach. “It’s dining a retail component and entertainment that make a great destination.”

He credited the GEDCA board with working with another agency. “To me that shows they really believe in it.”

Sablan said the inspiration came when his two daughters who are members of the SKIP dance group performed in a run-down theater in Tiyan without air conditioning. His idea of a performing arts center then grew to incorporate other facilities and ideas to showcase the arts and the culture. He also referred to an article that appeared in the June 6 edition of the Locum Destination Review and submitted it to the GEDCA board. It said “The new breed of mixed-use destination relies on innovative and cultural projects rather than standard anchors — you know cinemas bowling alleys night clubs game rooms. So the new move now for revitalization is based on your history and your culture because that lasts longer than an arcade game.”

Sablan emphasized that Kottura in Hagatna would not take away from what already exists in Hagatna or in Guam’s tourism hub in Tumon but would only compliment or supplement it. MBJ