Morant Bay Urban Centre Blueprint for Other Parishes

Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson Artist’s impression of the Morant Bay Urban Centre in St. Thomas.

Story Highlights

  • The proposed $4 billion Morant Bay town centre, to be built in St. Thomas, represents a blueprint for urban development, which Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says the Government is looking to replicate in other parish capitals.
  • The new urban centre will be developed just outside the existing town on the 25-acre property where the old Goodyear factory is located.
  • Meanwhile, Mr. Holness advises that the Government will be targeting Falmouth, Trelawny for a similar development.

The proposed $4 billion Morant Bay town centre, to be built in St. Thomas, represents a blueprint for urban development, which Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says the Government is looking to replicate in other parish capitals.

The new urban centre will be developed just outside the existing town on the 25-acre property where the old Goodyear factory is located.

It is described as a one-stop shop integrated industrial and commercial complex encompassing 365,000 square feet of space that will facilitate entities and amenities providing improved delivery of key public and private sector services.

Of that amount, the Goodyear factory building accounts for 130,000 square feet.

The project’s implementation is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, through the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), and arises out of what Mr. Holness says is the need for more orderly and efficient service delivery to residents and visitors to Morant Bay and St. Thomas, as against what currently obtains.

Key entities will include: the St. Thomas Municipal Corporation building; a Town Hall; a museum to be named the Paul Bogle Hall, in honour of the National Hero and son of the parish; and a commercial/retail complex hosting a range of business and financial firms, and food establishments.

Additionally, the centre will have two business process outsourcing (BPO) facilities totalling approximately 80,000 square feet that will employ some 3,000 persons working on a two-shift system.

This will have the capacity for expansion by another 80,000 square feet to generate an additional 3,000 jobs.

Other complexes include: offices for the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), Registrar General’s Department and Tax Administration Jamaica; a Justice Square with a parish court, family court and police post; a HEART Trust/NTA academy as well as universities providing maritime and general academic programmes; an industrial zone targeting small, medium and large enterprises; a medical centre; a library; a day care facility; as well as a heritage park incorporating a recreational area, jogging trail and amphitheatre.

Operational costs are expected to be significantly contained through the incorporation of various technological and other inputs. These include: the utilisation of wells adjacent to the property, which will be upgraded to provide potable water; and an integrated water-harvesting system to supplement the requirements for landscaping and firefighting, while reducing the likelihood of strain on the drainage system and the potential for flooding.

Additionally, it is anticipated that the centre’s energy requirements will be supplemented through the installation of wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV) systems, resulting in projected savings of 60 per cent.

The facility will have over 505 parking spaces including those reserved for the Municipal Corporation and courts, with others designated for metered parking.

Its security detail, which includes perimeter fencing, will incorporate state-of-the-art technology features manned by personnel who will complement officers assigned to the police post.

Construction is expected to get underway in December and should be completed in two years, FCJ Chairman, Lyttleton Shirley, has indicated.

Complementing this will be the US$384 million Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP), which will entail significant widening and resurfacing of the 110-kilometre roadway between Harbour View in Kingston and Port Antonio in Portland.

The project, which National Works Agency (NWA) Communications and Customer Service Manager, Stephen Shaw, says is slated to get underway in early 2018, will be carried out by China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC).

Mr. Holness says after the new urban centre is completed, the Government will take steps to declare the existing town a heritage site, in order to preserve buildings deemed to be of historical and architectural significance.

This, he notes, is expected to serve as the catalyst for significant tourism development in St. Thomas.

Details of these engagements were outlined during the second ‘HOPE for Jamaica’ town hall meeting, organised by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, at the old Goodyear factory on July 13.

Mr. Holness, who notes that the project marks further progress made on initiatives undertaken by previous administrations, says the urban centre’s development represents the utilisation of a “significant asset…that has just been lying here for years, not being used,” and anticipates that it will be the catalyst that spurs significant economic growth in St. Thomas.

He argues that St. Thomas’ development has “lagged behind” that of others for years, as a result of the underutilisation of its assets that need to be maximised.

“The strategy of this Government is that we believe in full asset utilisation. If we are talking about development, then you have to have the vision of creating modern facilities for the people,” the Prime Minister underscores.

Additionally, he said the rehabilitation of the road would also enable persons outside Morant Bay and St. Thomas to conduct business with ease.

Meanwhile, Mr. Holness advises that the Government will be targeting Falmouth, Trelawny for a similar development.

Noting that Falmouth is a historic resort town boasting notable Georgian architecture, he says its ability to further maximise its tourism potential is being stifled by competing daily commercial activities.

In this regard, Mr. Holness says the Urban Development Corporation has been instructed to explore the possibility of developing lands adjacent to Falmouth.

Meanwhile, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, says the Morant Bay urban centre’s development and plans for similar projects in other parish capitals represent a joined-up Government approach aimed at bringing key stakeholders together for project implementation based on policy directives and objectives.

“So, we are going to use this (Morant Bay urban centre) project as a template for other parishes. It may not be the same size…but we (Government) have a responsibility to give the people opportunities through job creation, which is going to create growth in the economy and vice versa. Let us pull together and work in the interest of Jamaica,” Mr. Vaz emphasises.

For his part, Mr. Shirley says the Morant Bay urban centre represents “a new dawn, vision and hope” for the residents of St. Thomas.

“We are going to transform a space (into something) that you (would) never imagine. It’s going to be the cutting edge and mother of all new urban centre development in Jamaica,” he assures.

Meanwhile, representatives and citizens of St. Thomas have welcomed the proposed development.

Morant Bay’s Mayor, Councillor Lenworth Rawle, describes the project as history being created, noting that he anticipates it “taking St. Thomas forward.”

Both Members of Parliament, James Robertson for Western St. Thomas and Dr. Fenton Ferguson for Eastern St. Thomas, also welcomed the town centre’s development.
Mr. Robertson said the project represents the rebirth of Morant Bay and, by extension, St. Thomas.

“I am one of the happiest persons, because when you tell me (what is planned), all I can say to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, is ‘job well done’,” he said.

In his remarks, Dr. Ferguson said the residents welcomed the development “with open arms” and “are of great hope” of the possibilities and opportunities it can generate.

Meanwhile, several residents who spoke at the town hall meeting are also optimistic about the prospects for St. Thomas as a result of the urban centre’s development.

Pauline Ellington of Retreat said it marks “a very signal point” in the parish’s history and development, adding that “I am really happy.”

Shauna Collins of Green Wall district said it is “marvellous” that the current Administration is seeking to build on work undertaken at the old Goodyear factory by its predecessors.

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