JIS News

Every renowned city around the world has at least one thing in common, that of being a hub of major commercial, cultural and legal activities. The city of Kingston is no exception and has long borne the reputation of being the centre of all such activities in the island.
However, according to information provided by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), during the past 40 years overcrowding, particularly of the capital’s commercial centre of downtown Kingston, and rural/urban migration has created pressures on the housing stock, infrastructure, services, institutions, and the job market. These conditions have led to poor social conditions, and rapid infrastructure deterioration, prompting the exodus of large numbers of residents, as well as the business community.
The Government of Jamaica, in recognising the urgent need to rehabilitate the capital’s city centre, has moved to recapture the former glory of the commercial district through the Kingston City Centre Improvement Company (KCCIC).
The establishment of the KCCIC, has seen the implementation of projects to redevelop downtown Kingston, to promote economic development and job creation.
In 2002, Prime Minister, P.J Patterson began discussions for the improvement of the business district through the Kingston Redevelopment Committee. This committee in its quest to return downtown Kingston to its former glory set out to implement measures that would deal with the provision of security, public utilities, transportation and the regulation of business activities. And in November 2003, based on the recommendations of the committee, the plans to revitalize the commercial district received a further boost with the launch of the KCCIC, a non-profit private/public sector company.
At the launch of the restoration company, Prime Minister Patterson stressed the urgent need to clean up the image and “gritty reputation” that the city centre had branded with over the years. “Our own self-respect as a nation with a well-earned worldwide reputation as a forward-looking creative and industrious people is just one of the imperatives which dictates that we undertake this task, formidable though it is,” he said.
The KCCIC comprises representatives from institutions and community organizations in the downtown/Kingston city centre area as well as representatives of the public and private sectors. The company is headed by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Errol Greene and is chaired by Executive Chairman of the UDC, Dr. Vincent Lawrence.
It presently focuses on three main areas. These include the implementation of a modern transportation centre to the west of the city, on Port Royal Street and Marcus Garvey Drive to be located on approximately eight acres of land in the vicinity of the commercial fishing complex and former railway, and the creation of a centre of inspiration.
This includes the refurbishment of the St. William Grant Park, in the heart of the Business Improvement District (BID) to create a tranquil recreational environment for residents of downtown, Kingston. This plan involves the removal of walls surrounding the park to make it more user-friendly, development of a promenade, reactivation of the fountain, landscaping and beautification.
Meanwhile, the third area of concentration is the renewal of the market district, which will see the upgrading of markets in the BID under the five-year development programme, into manageable districts. In addition, special vending streets will be designated based on category of goods, and vendors will be assigned to relevant districts.
It is expected that some $500 million will be raised to implement the projects, with the private sector contributing $250 million and the government matching that amount. At a press conference to update journalists on the progress of the projects, Chairman Dr. Lawrence revealed that approximately $63 million had been raised so far from the private sector.
CEO Errol Greene says the security aspect of the project is well underway. “We have achieved some success in working with the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and the police to bring about higher level of security to the BID downtown,” he tells JIS News.
He further informs that the success of this initiative has come through regular meetings with various stakeholders. “Through regular meetings with all the stakeholders, the police, the KSAC (Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation), the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, we come up with plans and come to formal agreements as to how we treat security in the district,” he says.
Mr. Greene further informs that several aspects of the initiative are set to begin soon and will take some time to be completed. “The project is one that will take some time. The transformation requires change of attitude, it requires change of physical surroundings. We don’t expect that it would be completed overnight,” he states. Mr. Greene notes that work on the transferral of the bus park as well as work on the St. William Grant Park should have begun but the designs for the areas are being revisited and will be completed soon.
Dr. Lawrence confirms these plans telling JIS News that, physical activities such as park improvement and the building of the transportation centre will begin in the next two to three months. Meanwhile, cleaning of the park has already begun.
The planned changes to downtown, Kingston are expected to have a major social and economic impact on the town and the country as a whole. Mr. Greene tells JIS that although change in physical infrastructure will be the most obvious change, other areas will also be positively impacted on. “We expect changes in the behaviour and attitude of the people. The town will be kinder and gentler, as the parks and markets will be more customer and people friendly,” he says.
He also says the changes to the town should see a change from “the ghost town” that it now becomes after 7:00 p.m.”We are working towards a town that will have a fair amount of nightlife and attraction that will be a magnet which will draw both locals and foreigners so that downtown Kingston will be a showpiece of the Caribbean as it once was,” he explains.
The 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup is expected to provide significant economic opportunities for the downtown area and the KCCIC head says this event is an integral part of the company’s plans.
“It is an integral part of our plans as the event is expected to attract some 30,000 visitors to the area. The physical and social infrastructure of the town are very critical to the plans being developed,” he informs.
Mr. Greene also says the KCCIC will be facilitating the marketing of downtown as a heritage tourism destination as the historic buildings in the town, which date back to the 18th century, along with its overall history, can provide tourist attraction. “We believe the town can be polished so that it can be very, very attractive to those visitors to our shores, who when they come to the north coast or other areas of Jamaica, they will certainly find it interesting to come to Kingston and see and learn about downtown, Kingston,” he further adds. The KCCIC is not without its fair share of delays and hindrances, and Mr. Greene says among its problems is inadequate support from the business community in the area, for the project. He informs that the expected funds have not been forthcoming and that this has caused some delay.
Dr. Lawrence has called on the community to treat the project as their own and not as government’s as they are the ones who stand to benefit most from the results. “We don’t feel it’s a government project, we want to get the business community involved as they are the main beneficiaries,” Dr. Lawrence says, adding, “all incentives are there to encourage people to take advantage and derive benefits from an improved downtown, Kingston”.
Mr. Greene outlines some of the key collaborations and aspects that will allow the company to achieve its objectives and make downtown once again a pleasant place to do business as well as to have fun.
“We are working with KSAC, JAMPRO, Jamaica Cricket 2007 and other groups to make this a success. Culturally, we will be developing a modern structure for the performing arts, we will be building a small 250 to 300 feet theatre and an artist colony where artist can live and work and display their goods and have people come and patronize them. So those are some of the immediate plans we have in looking to redevelop downtown Kingston so it can once again be a pleasant experience to shop and visit there,” he points out.
The end of January 2006 has been tentatively set for the completion of the project as the KCCIC works fervently to achieve its objective of revitalizing and once again making downtown, Kingston a hub of major business, commercial, legal and cultural activities in Jamaica.

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