The Garapan Tourist District should be the premier real estate in Saipan. Sandwiched between the Saipan Lagoon and a National Park, with easy walking access to several hotels, an elementary school, health clubs, restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and a three mile long walking path fronting the ocean, it should be the perfect place to raise a family.
But it’s not.
It’s the manky armpit of our once beautiful island.
In his weekly column in the Saipan Tribune, Bruce Bateman recently recounted a conversation we had concerning Garapan. We were discussing ways to make Garapan more palatable for families and tourists alike and I offered three simple solutions that would lead to a "new" Garapan. I suggested that we move prostitution out of Garapan, move several government offices into Garapan, and entice young professionals to make Garapan their residence.
I’d say close your eyes and try to imagine my vision, but then you’d have a really hard time reading this...but imagine what living in Garapan could be like:
Imagine if you are a young professional with a small one- or two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of one of the buildings in the "new" Garapan. You share it with your husband and your daughter.
You could wake up first thing in the morning and go for a six-mile run along the Saipan Bike path, then jog over to Club Elan for some weightlifting or yoga.
Fresh from a shower at the spa, you walk over to one of the Chinese restaurants and have breakfast for $4.
You walk back to the apartment to help your husband get your daughter ready for school. Your daughter is pretty good in the morning and can get herself ready; it’s your husband who really needs the help getting out the door.
Your daughter likes you to walk her to school, which is right across the street, so you take her over, kiss her goodbye, wish her luck on her test, and then go to work.
You work at MVA, which along with the Saipan Mayor’s office and several other government entities are now located in Garapan. Instead of driving, you walk over to work, strolling through the brand new Visitor’s Center on your way to your desk.
Around noon one of your coworkers asks if you want Japanese, Korean or Thai for lunch. You respond with, "How about Italian?" Your husband, who works for the Mayor, walks over to meet you.
When your daughter gets out of school, you are able to take a 15-minute break to pick her up. You take her home, then she goes out to play with her friends. They ride bikes through the National Park and then go swimming.
After work, some of your coworkers want to go for some happy hour drinks, but you promised your daughter you’d take her to the Thursday street market.
Alright, open your eyes.
In my vision, almost everything except for the government offices being located in Garapan is already true. It already exists. We can do this. If we can move the prostitution out, move several government offices including MVA in, and get young professionals to live here, we can save Garapan.
Beautify CNMI has done a lot of work in the last two years to clean up Garapan, with our biggest support coming from Rep. Waki, Rep. Kaipat, Friends of the Mariana Islands, Kinpachi Restaurant, Hyatt, and Fiesta Resort. There is still a lot of work to be done, so if you are interested in helping, please attend 2008’s first Beautify CNMI meeting. We meet on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008, at 7pm at Cafe at the Park in Garapan.
I hope to see you there.