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14 Districts of Roseau

14.1 Central Roseau and the Botanical Gardens

'This is where we started to call that Roseau was an island within an island' (Green 1999).

Central Roseau--often called just 'Roseau'--is a small and compact urban settlement surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, Roseau River and Morne Bruce (see e.g. Fig. 6). Built on the site of an ancient Kalinago Indian village of Sairi, it is the oldest and most important urban settlement in Dominica.

The central district of Roseau is tightly packed with small houses, and only few green or open space is situated within it. The district is, however, framed in every direction by natural elements. The sea and the river provide water element while the Botanical Gardens and the State House gardens frame the city with green space (Fig. 63). Both these elements are rare in the Caribbean. No other centre in the region has such extensive botanical gardens with such central location, and the Roseau River is amongst the largest rivers that flow through any Caribbean capital.

The urban structure of Central Roseau is based on irregular grid system in miniature scale. It makes Roseau a highly illegible city. Even though the grid area is not very extensive, it is relatively easy for a visitor to get lost there. The grid area has some 80 blocks in the area of thirty hectares. In comparison, the grid areas of Kingstown and Castries--capitals of St. Vincent and St. Lucia--have some 50 and 60 blocks in the areas of over fourty hectares. The avarage block size in Central Roseau is thus some one third of a hectare, i.e. about half of the figure of Central Kingstown.

In the 18th century Roseau was only what is now its central district. Currently, only about one seventh out of those 16,000 who live in the district of Roseau City Council do live in Central Roseau. Newtown and Potter's Ville, the old suburbs, where formed already in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Goodwill was established in the 1950s and Bath Estate in the early 1980s. Since that several new semiurban settlements--such as Stock Farm, Castle Comfort and Wall House--have been constructed around the existing ones. Some older settlements like Fond Cole and Canefield nowadays belong also to the semiurban area that lies around Roseau.

Hence, less and less people sleep their nights in Central Roseau but more and more come to do their daily business there. Motorised vehicles pour into the central district thus introducing a mode of point-to-point interaction in an environment that was created for multiple use. As Shillingford (1999) notes, first there was no street but just a space between the buildings. The streets of Roseau, and especially those of its central district, are not only ways to move from place to place but they are places themselves. They are used as gardens, playing fields and social meeting places, for instance.

The Botanical Gardens on the fringes of the central district are a relaxing place if compared to the busy downtown area. They are, however, mostly used by children. Several schools are situated in the vicinity of the gardens, and groups of school children in their blue or brown uniforms populate the gardens along with tourists. When there is a cricket match, however, people gather to the sides of the Cricket Ground to watch the game.

The plan to create a pedestrian link around the central district (see Chapter 13 would better connect the Gardens to the rest of the city and, actually, expand the Gardens into the city. If implemented, the plan would also reinforce the idea of (Central) Roseau as an island within an island by delineating it from its suburbs with the aid of a promenade.

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