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Several representatives from the private and public sectors turned out on July 5, for the first in a five-part series of meetings hosted by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), to stimulate dialogue among members of the business community in relation to the redevelopment plans for the capital city.

The sessions, dubbed the ‘Downtown Kingston Exchange’, are being held at the UDC headquarters, downtown Kingston, in an effort to facilitate networking and encourage partnerships and the exchange of ideas between members of the public and private sectors.

Acting General Manager, UDC, Desmond Young, said the meetings are geared toward advancing the development of downtown Kingston as well as putting forward business solutions.

“In these sessions, the UDC will not only be talking but we will be listening to your suggestions. We also hope that you will share your thoughts on the tax incentive programme (TIP) and other development planning concepts specific to the downtown Kingston area,” he said.

Some $200 million has been provided through the PetroCaribe Fund for the restoration and redevelopment of the area, which will also see the implementation of a number of social intervention programmes.

Mr. Young noted that the Board of Directors of the UDC has charged the management of the corporation with delivering on this mandate and to do so with deliberate calculations and within a framework of consultation.

“This approach holds the best chance of a viable and sustainable outcome. Downtown Kingston holds special significance for the UDC and indeed for all Jamaica,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy General Manager, Economic Development and Corporate Relations,UDC, Lenworth Tracey, informed that all is in place for the corporation to meet its December 2012 target date set by the UDC Board for the completion of the development plans for the project.

Aspects of the plan include creating and providing a catalyst for re-energising the business, commercial, and marketing centres; rebuilding the townscape; establishing development guidelines; re-creating the waterfront; creating a balanced residential development; and infrastructure improvement.

The initial plans also included the development of a multimodal transportation hub; a festival marketplace and waterfront promenade; the Kingston business centre; a 200-room five-star hotel and conference centre; new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade headquarters; West Kingston market district; railway museum and trade centre; city centre park; Ward Theatre cultural square; a new parliament building; and Justice Square.

Mr. Tracey said that although the plans are nearing completion, it is important to stimulate and sustain dialogue with members of the community to ensure honest and well-needed feedback.

 “We cannot do justice to a development plan for any section of Jamaica… without dialogue, and the feedback from this group will inform how we move forward,” he said.

Participants included representatives from Guardsman Groups Limited, Digicel, Swiss Stores Limited, CIBC First Caribbean International Bank and the National Gallery of Jamaica.

By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter