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The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) is, undoubtedly, synonymous with the growth and development of Jamaica’s infrastructure.

An agency of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the UDC has been one of the primary public sector entities, whose inputs have been pivotal in shaping and transforming Jamaica’s landscape, for more than 44 years.

Established in 1968, the UDC has played an integral role in developing Jamaica’s most viable urban centres and strategic rural towns, while preserving the country’s natural environment, traditions and customs, and in the process, spurring economic development and growth.

The agency’s formation coincided with the early years of Jamaica’s attainment of self government. As a fledgling nation, having secured political independence from Great Britain on August 6, 1962, Jamaica experienced its share of teething challenges, as it adjusted to the post-colonial era.

Widely regarded as one of the most exciting periods of development in Jamaica’s history, the first decade of the post-independence era saw significant capital investments in key sectors, such as mining, manufacturing and tourism.

Conversely, it was also a period of challenges characterised by migration of segments of the rural population to urban centres. This was precipitated, primarily, by the lucrative capital investments in the urban centres, which attracted rural folk in search of employment and what they perceived would be an improved quality of life.

Cognizant of the challenges which this posed for the targeted urban centres’ infrastructure, the administration of the day moved decisively to address the issue. It was concluded that this scenario could be improved through the creation of new and viable urban centres in rural areas to reduce the pressure on the existing ones. Hence, the establishment of the Urban Development Corporation, by an Act of Parliament, in 1968.

The UDC’s core business objective is advancing development through the planning and implementation of comprehensive projects and programmes in designated areas. It complements the Town Planning Division, and the Town and Country Planning Authority, the state agencies responsible for outlining and detailing land use planning and control. Its role, in a nutshell, is to effectively “make development happen,” and be the catalyst for such private and public sector engagements. These underpin the economic activities towards which the agency is geared, that promote development in designated areas.

Since its creation, the entity has contributed to significant development and improvement in the quality of the country’s public infrastructure, through its various development programmes. These have been complemented by the introduction of alternative patterns and concepts of urban settlement, inclusive of creative shelter solutions, and development of new townships.

Notable projects have been undertaken in Kingston, with development of the waterfront, as well as in Hellshire and Caymanas, St. Catherine; Ocho Rios, St. Ann; Montego Bay, St. James; and Negril, spanning the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland.

Activities carried out include: layout, construction and provision of primary infrastructure; secondary developments such as residential, commercial and recreational facilities; property management services, inclusive of rentals; and property sales in both primary and secondary developments.

Other notable engagements include the provision of conference services at the Jamaica Conference and Montego Bay Convention Centres; management services through the St. Ann Development Company; and the provision of utilities and amenities in St. Ann, particularly in and around Runaway Bay, through the Runaway Bay Water Company.

The UDC has also been instrumental in executing a number of projects implemented by several other agencies. These include: the Comprehensive Rural Township Development Programme (CRTDP); San Jose Accord for Sports and Culture; Health Services Rationalisation Programme (HSRP); Schools Building Programme; Police Station Upgrading Programme; Lift up Jamaica Programme; and Inner City Renewal Programme (ICRP); and North Western Schools Programme.

Additionally, over the years, through partnerships with stakeholders in the private and public sectors, a number of institutions have been birthed, inclusive of the Kingston Restoration Company in 1983 and the Kingston City Centre Improvement Company (KCCIC), which was established in 2003. These entities are all geared at advancing the urban renewal thrust within the nation’s capital.

The entity also manages the Tax Incentive Programme (TIP), which is designed to stimulate urban renewal by revitalising areas deemed blighted, and providing opportunities for private capital stakeholders to participate in their redevelopment.

The UDC’s scope of activities also encompasses significant commercial interests islandwide, mainly in land and buildings. Its combined asset base is valued at over $30 billion, and is represented by its subsidiaries and related companies.

These include: St. Ann Development Company Limited, which has overall responsibility for managing assets in the parish of St. Ann; Ocho Rios Commercial Centre Limited, which has direct responsibility for managing the Ocean Village Shopping Centre in Ocho Rios; and Runaway Bay Water Company Limited, both in St. Ann.

The Corporation’s commercial interests also include Montego Freeport Limited, in Montego Bay; and Caymanas Development Limited in St. Catherine. The UDC also has 50 per cent share ownership in Grand Lido Hotel in Negril, Westmoreland, and 49 per cent holdings in Portmore Commercial Shopping Centre, St. Catherine.

By virtue of its asset base, the state entity was removed from the Government’s central budget in 1987, and mandated to operate as a self-financing institution. Hence, projects are financed from retained earnings derived from returns on investments in land and buildings; property sales and property management fees; government grants; and loans from commercial banks and international lending institutions, for primary infrastructure and secondary development. The statutes governing the UDC’s operations stipulate that the entity submits an annual report to Parliament. 

The UDC’s organisational effectiveness and efficiency are predicated on the agency’s corporate strategic objectives. These include: ensuring the organisation’s financial viability and solvency; improving business/operational efficiencies; improving customer service; and maximising its social impact and contributing to national development.

These objectives serve as the catalyst driving development of functional strategies for departments and subsidiaries and are expected to become instruments for strategic monitoring and control.

In moving to further fulfill its mandate, the Corporation has embarked on a number of redevelopment projects in several designated areas. As the nation’s foremost authority on urban planning, the Corporation is executing the following projects as part of its national mission:

·        Completion of the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre in downtown Kingston, designed to enhance Kingston’s image as the cultural capital of Jamaica

·        Implementation of infrastructure works to support housing developments in Caymanas Estate Development

·        Hellshire Sewage Treatment Plant Expansion – to facilitate the expansion of housing solutions in Hellshire

·        Improvement of infrastructure at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex and Aquasol Beach in Montego Bay

·        Improvement of the infrastructure, grounds and entry management systems at Dunn’s River Falls and Parks

Other major projects planned at the start of the financial year include: Downtown Kingston Housing pilot, and Kingston Market district projects (Chapel Lane Open Market, Jubilee Market, and Red Rose Fish Market).

For further information on these and the Corporation’s other activities, persons can contact the UDC at the Office Centre Building, 12 Ocean Boulevard, downtown Kingston, telephone 922-8310-4.  Persons can also visit their website at: www.udcja.com, or send them an e-mail at info@udcja.com .