Ground was broken on Friday, April 5, for the redevelopment of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Lathbury Barracks at Up Park Camp, which is to cost approximately $1.7 billion.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who performed the task, said she was happy that the project has finally gotten off the ground after being so long in the making.
She also noted that the project meant that “no longer will any government, no matter what party they represent, make any suggestion of the JDF removing from the capital and cultural capital of the Caribbean, Kingston.”
Mrs. Simpson Miller recalled touring the living facilities at the barracks last year and found them wanting. Some of the existing accommodation, offices and lecture room facilities date back to 1889 when they were constructed. More than 24 of the buildings had roofing material containing asbestos, which posed a health risk to the soldiers. In addition, many buildings had termites, were rotting and had some hurricane damage.
“The men and women of the JDF deserve much better,” she said, noting that not many Jamaicans fully understand the contributions the organization makes to the nation.
She pointed to the irony of the JDF, having spearheaded so many important development projects across the island, having to live and work in such substandard physical infrastructure.
“I believe that a comfortable place to lay one’s head is the very least that should be afforded those of you who serve this nation so well,” she told the soldiers.
Under the project, several multi-storey buildings will be constructed to accommodate over 1,000 soldiers, as well as offices, stores and other multi- purpose rooms.
Last December, the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Housing Trust (NHT), Commissioner of Lands and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), to facilitate funding for the project.
The building was designed with the architectural input of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and features several energy efficient features. It is being executed by the JDF’s Engineering Regiment, with additional technical assistance from both the NHT and the UDC and will be completed over four years.
Meanwhile, Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson, said many of the buildings in the old barracks had passed their useful life and it was appropriate to get rid of them.
He thanked the many persons who worked to get the project off the ground, noting that, “in a time of significant fiscal constraints, significant innovation needs to be applied to get something like this done.”
By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter