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DBJ recommended Government acquire Outameni property

Published:Wednesday | November 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
DBJ managing director, Milverton Reynolds. - File

Tameka Gordon, Business Writer

Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) has confirmed information to Wednesday Business that two years ago it recommended that either the National Housing Trust or the Urban Development Corporation should acquire the Orange Grove property housing Outameni Experience.

DBJ managing director Milverton Reynolds said the bank made the call to preserve what it saw as the historical and cultural potential of the asset - the Orange Grove property houses a three-century-old great house.

But he also said the DBJ indicated then that as an attraction, Outameni was not viable.

Reynolds, in a May 2012 letter to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Jennifer Griffiths, suggested that the purchase be done "through a landholding entity such as UDC and/or NHT".

But on Tuesday the DBJ head said in an interview with Wednesday Business that he could not say definitively whether NHT's subsequent acquisition of Orange Grove Holdings assets from Lennie Little-White was a result of his recommendation.

"I don't know what happened after that; we were just responding to the request by the MOT [Ministry of Tourism] to give an analysis," Reynolds said.

NHT bought the property last year for $180 million.

Reynolds said that due to National Investment Bank of Jamaica's (NIBJ) history with the business, the DBJ was asked to give an opinion on the economic viability of the attractions venture. NIBJ which merged with DBJ in 2006, had invested US$500,000 in the attractions company.

"Given the fact that from NIBJ days we had been involved with it, they wanted our opinion on it, and that's why I wrote the letter. I would not therefore be in a position to know what happened after that," Reynolds said.

"This was back in May 2012. The letter sets out that we didn't think it was viable as an attraction given the way it was being operated. All that we were trying to say here is that if the Government wished to preserve the facility, given its potential as a heritage attraction, then they would want to look at other government agencies that may be able to acquire it, and I mentioned the UDC and/or the NHT," he added.

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"I went on to say that since the UDC, for example, is always dealing with future developments, and in particular, in a parish like Trelawny, where you have the Falmouth pier, the NHT would have to explore, as I said, the opportunities for expanding the development of housing in the vicinity."

Reynolds also made reference to a letter dated April 20, 2012, which he said detailed the request from the tourism ministry, but declined to quote its contents directly.

UDC chairman K.D. Knight, when pressed on Tuesday whether the UDC considered buying Outameni, would not comment either way, saying only that: "Both (agencies) could not acquire it."

Griffiths did not respond to emailed queries or telephone calls up to press time.