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Cabinet has given its approval for the compulsory acquisition of the Devon House property by the Commissioner of Lands, with a view to developing the site as a means of promoting Kingston as a tourism destination.
The decision to acquire the property comes against the background of the protracted difficulty the government has experienced in trying to locate Craft Things Jamaica Limited, the company which assumed responsibility to oversee and manage Devon House and its premises.
Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman made this disclosure today (February 21) at the weekly post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
According to Minister Whiteman, Craft Things Jamaica Limited, an industrial provident society, became the oversight entity for the property in 1967.
“The property was registered in the name of that entity,” he explained, adding that since that time, there have been successor organisations responsible for the management of Devon House property but the title has remained in the name of that industrial provident society.
The Minister told journalists that it was “now not possible to locate the directors of that provident society, and the Ministry of Industry and Tourism and the body which is now operating Devon House property, are stymied in their efforts to enter into lease arrangements or any other arrangements with any private person or any entity at all, because the title of the property is not in their hands”.
He stressed that the government would follow the appropriate processes in compulsorily acquiring the property. Upon its acquisition, he added, the Ministry of Industry and Tourism through its agents, would deal with the development of Devon House in a comprehensive manner, and with proper legal authority.
Noting that the restoration and development of Devon House would form part of the critical action in promoting of Kingston as a tourism destination, Minister Whiteman pointed out that chief among the immediate objectives of the present managers of the property was the improvement of the physical environment.
To this end, he said that rehabilitation work would include repairing the fence lines of the property along Waterloo and Hope Roads, and the repairing of two garden gazebos on the grounds as well as the construction of a new gazebo. Furthermore, additional lighting is to be installed in the parking lots, 20 concrete benches are to be purchased, and the roadways and parking lots are also to be upgraded.
Minister Whiteman said $14 million would be spent on the improvements at Devon House and should be completed in time for World Cup Cricket next year.