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Cabinet yesterday (March 20) gave the go-ahead for the establishment of the Spanish Town Redevelopment Company (SPARCOM) to manage the redevelopment of the old capital and its environs.
Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, who made the disclosure at the post Cabinet press briefing held at Jamaica House, said that the work to be done by the entity, which would be headed by chairman of the National Investment Bank of Jamaica, Aubyn Hill, and comprise public and private sector interests, would serve to arrest the urban decay that has dogged the old capital.
Senator Whiteman said the intention was to improve the physical conditions and the economic opportunities within the town primarily through the development of a cultural tourism product.
He told journalists that already, interests locally and internationally, have indicated their willingness to support the project. “I believe the time is right now to seek to make that difference and this body is being put in place to facilitate that.” Minister Whiteman said.
While not disclosing the budget for the company, he informed that the government and private sector interests would be contributing towards its operation.
In the meantime, Minister Whiteman said that planning work was being done and several projects were being contemplated including the upgrading and development of housing stock, which he said would be a “major element of the development programme”.
In addition, he said that there were very “clear social and economic objectives such as increasing employment and reducing crime”.
The Spanish Town redevelopment initiative, Senator Whiteman said, would involve a comprehensive community awareness programme with special emphasis being placed on 21 major communities comprising Tawes Pen, Ellerslie Pen, Rivoli, Railway Lands, Dallas, De La Vega City, March Pen Road, Africa, Thompson Pen,St. John’s Road, Green Dale, Job’s Lane, Willodene, Shelter Rock, Central Village, Morgan’s Lane, Big Lane, Gordon Pen, Duncan’s Pen, Old Road and Windsor Road.
The Information Minister, while not giving a definite startup date for the project, said that work in the first year would be focused on holding community meetings and talent shows, beautification and sidewalk improvement, and the production of monthly newsletters and programmes for cable channels to “create the conditions for larger and more sustainable investments in the community”.
It is proposed that SPARCOM will be Spanish Town’s economic development agency and as such, will be expected to prepare a redevelopment area plan for the town, develop a distinct heritage tourism district and viable mixed income neighbourhoods, and relocate displaced residents.
Government and private sector agencies have collaborated on other projects for the redevelopment of Spanish Town including the restoration of the Rodney Memorial and improvement of the courthouse in the city square and the designation of Emancipation Square.