Development History

Welcome viewers! On this page you will be able to follow some of the major accomplishments made by the IADC, since the beginning of the international airport project.

In considering the major achievements for the Argyle International Airport, it is important to go back to where it all began, with a Cabinet Oversight Committee, which had its first meeting at Cabinet room in January 2004. This Committee was chaired by the Hon. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and included senior ministers of government and senior technical officers from various ministries and state agencies.

It was this Committee, after months of careful analysis of the various studies available on airport development on mainland St Vincent, made the recommendation to Cabinet to select Argyle as the site for the new international airport. This Committee also recommended that the moratorium on the kitchen site be terminated and one be placed on Argyle. It was also at this meeting that it was suggested that Cabinet requests the Central Planning Division to prepare a proposal for the development of an Airport Development Implementation Unit, which was to be housed in the Ministry of Finance and Planning. This idea gave birth to the International Airport Development Company (IADC), with a mandate to construct the Argyle International Airport, and thereafter to arrange for its effective management.

Year 2005

It was August 8th 2005 when Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves addressed a gathering at the Methodist Church Hall on the issue of airport development in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and made clear the intentions of the government to construct an international airport at Argyle.

In what is now an historic speech, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves addressed two crucial questions.

The following is a quote from Dr Gonsalves speech.

WHY DO WE NEED AN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT?


“I begin first by answering two queries posed by some persons:

o Does St. Vincent and the Grenadines really need an international airport?

o And if we need one, can we afford one?

Fundamentally, both questions are inter-related. Having studied this issue for many years, it is clear to the ULP administration and its leadership that the full realization of the potential of our country’s growth and development hinge on an international airport, among other vital considerations.

The requisites of economic diversification and regional and international competitiveness demand an international airport.”

Following this speech, work on the Argyle International Airport began in earnest. In September 2005, a team of Cuban and Venezuelan engineers and technicians began preliminary studies on the project. These studies included (a) complete topographic surveys of the area earmarked for the international airport; (b) testing of the rocks and soils within the airport zone; and (c) commencement of wind studies, to determine the best orientation of the main runway, and the need, if any, for a shorter “cross-wind” runway for smaller planes. With the exception of the wind studies, these works concluded by December 2006.

Year 2006

In April 2006, the IADC relocated its office from the Administrative Building in Kingstown to Argyle, to make it more accessible to property owners who were soon to be relocated. It also made for more effective management of the project. Continuing from prior meetings in early 2006, negotiators from the IADC sat down in March 2006 with Mr. Murray Hadaway, to discuss the purchase of some of his lands at Harmony Hall. These negotiations concluded with IADC purchasing 21 acres of Hadaway’s land to be developed and sold to affected Mt Pleasant/Argyle property owners for rebuilding their homes. Shortly after purchasing the land, prisoners from Her Majesty’s Prisons began a year and a half long process of clearing the land to make it ready for infrastructure works.

In addition to the Harmony Hall lands, 3½ acres of land at Carapan were also negotiated and bought from Randolph Bradshaw and family and approximately 3 acres at Diamond were acquired from Mr. Theodore Browne. The Diamond site was initially earmarked for Argyle property owners who had business interests. But with only limited interests expressed by the affected business persons, some parcels of this land were sold for residential purposes.

The firm Civil Design and Surveying Services was contracted by IADC to do the development plan, surveying and supervision of the development works at Harmony Hall. And Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) won the competitive bid for the contract for the infrastructure works at Harmony Hall. As an add-on to their contract, HLDC was retained to do the infrastructure works at the two other sites, at Carapan and Diamond.

April 10th 2006, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, members of staff of the IADC and other officials held a public consultation with residents of the Argyle/Mt Pleasant area to explain to them how the government intended to compensate them for their properties and what concessions were being offered. Among the many things discussed was the fact that property owners would be paid market value for their properties as well as a $10,000.00 relocation allowance. Homeowners were also allowed to take whatever they could from their houses after they were sold to the IADC. The Prime Minister had met with the residents one year prior to that to make them aware of the decision to build the international airport and how it was going to affect them.

In July 2006, the IADC began in earnest, negotiations with homeowners whose homes fell within the airport fence area. There were approximately 131 houses within the fenced area. This followed the submission of valuation reports for built properties and vacant land parcels by Brown and Compay, the British firm contracted by IADC to value the properties at Argyle and Mt Pleasant.

Year 2007

The final designs were presented to the Government in December 2007 by the Cuban authorities. These designs were presented to the public at P’tani Resorts on May 27th 2008. The designs provided detailed information for the earthworks, and proposed location of the terminal building, control tower, roads and other support services. These designs were used, among other things, to guide the earthworks. For the first 12 months of earthworks, the plan was to concentrate on the first kilometre of the runway. This covers the area from the Southern end of the runway (Stubbs Bay end) to the Junction at Argyle, near the properties of the Heir of Colonel Sydney Anderson and the Johnsons.

Construction of the new Windward Highway (Argyle bypass road) began on July 16th, 2007. The completion of this road would allow for the closure of the segment of the Windward Highway that runs across the airport runway and would also allow work to proceed on the 2nd kilometre of the runway without causing disruption to vehicular traffic.

Year 2008

It was on April 23rd, 2008 that Cabinet granted approval for the acquisition of all vacant land parcels within the area at Mt Pleasant for the first kilometer of the runway. The estimated value of the vacant lands within the first kilometer at the time of the acquisition was $22,017,242.00.

On May 19th 2008, the first 13 pieces of heavy earth moving equipment promised by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for earthworks on the airport project arrived. These first pieces were followed by several other shipments, altogether numbering 37 pieces of heavy equipment and a variety of spares, costing US$10 million (EC$27 million).

Austria too made to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines a grant of US$185,000, to assist with the purchase of three compactors needed, as part of the full complement of heavy machinery, for the earthworks.

In June 2008, a complement of Cuban workers arrived in St Vincent bringing the total then to 47. Shortly thereafter, another 4 (including a doctor) arrived and they all eventually joined a team of 50 Vincentian workers to form the Chatoyer-Che Contingent to do the earthworks on the project.

July 13th 2008 saw the groundbreaking ceremony to signal the start of construction of the Argyle International Airport. This date marked a defining moment, as thousands of Vincentians flocked to Argyle to witness the symbolic blast on Johnson Hill and to hear from Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, C.E.O. of the IADC Dr. Rudy Mathias, representatives from the Eastern Caribbean Aviation Authority and well wishers from friendly and supporting governments, regarding plans for the construction of the airport.

To many, the ground breaking ceremony signaled the beginning of the realization of a dream. Earthworks began on 13th August 2008. Since then, the work team has concentrated on clearing and grubbing the area, demolishing the houses, and removing the top soil in the first kilometre of the runway, which stretches from the Stubbs Bay cliff to the intersection at the Estates of Colonel Sydney Anderson and the Johnsons at Argyle.

Later that same year, on November 10th, 2008 St Vincent and the Grenadines welcomed Airline Operators and Managers to the first symposium dealing with the international airport. They were welcomed by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and C.E.O. of the International Airport Development Company (IADC) Dr. Rudolph Matthias.

In his address to the delegates, Prime Minister Gonsalves noted that:

“In August 2005, my government accepted the advice of experts, both local and foreign, to build a new international airport on mainland, St. Vincent. The decision to construct on a green field site at Argyle was based mainly on the potential contribution of the international airport to tourism and agriculture development, and the physical restrictions on expanding the E.T. Joshua Airport.

The Argyle International Airport will replace the E. T. Joshua Airport at Arnos Vale as the only international airport on mainland St. Vincent. This new airport will have a runway 2,743 metres long and 45 metres wide, and a terminal building of about 8,700 square metres of floor space, designed to handle 1.4 million passengers annually. This airport would allow us direct flights to North, Central and South America, and Europe, using commercial jets as large as the Boeing 747-400."

Year 2009

What is arguably one of the most significant developments to have taken place in St Vincent and the Grenadines and possibly the Caribbean took place on the site of the Argyle International Airport between January 20th and March 11th 2009.

A team of archaeologists from Canada working in the Escape area of Argyle uncovered evidence suggesting that there was civilization in St Vincent as far back as 2000 years ago and possibly beyond.

During their archaeological excavations, the team led by Jo Moravetz, and including Margarita Guzman, Jode Mackay and Taylor Graham discovered pottery dating back 2000 years and other trinkets buried inside shallow graves with people remains. Moravetz noted that the style of some of the pottery is indicative of the saladoid, a pottery style associated with the Arawaks who first came to St Vincent, before the Caribs and the Europeans who followed Christopher Columbus. Moravetz also noted that the style of pottery later changed reflecting the change in the types of people who lived here at varying times. He noted that some of them are reflective of those (Suazey) produced by the Caribs some 1500 years ago.

The discovery of several types of stone axes and trinkets made from material not indigenous to St Vincent, also provide evidence that the people who came were well versed in the use of the sea and that they engaged in a significant volume of trade. What has not been determined as yet is with whom they would have traded.

It is noted by many on the island that such a find has the potential to significantly change the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

A second team of archaeologists and students from the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University, Netherlands arrived in the state in June 2009 to investigate an adjacent site thought to be rich in Cayo deposits.

During the year, work also started on developing the Stubbs, Mt Pleasant, Argyle road to provide continued access to persons living on the Eastern side of the project and those wishing to use the Rawacou recreational facility. The development of this road would be done in three phases.

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