Developer Frederick Moe plans three projects as makeover for Montego Bay
If developer Fredrik Moe gets the green light, the tourism capital, Montego Bay, will be transformed into a 'Complete Resort Destination' within the next two years.
Moe, who has had successes with the new town centre, Fairview, and parts of Montego Freeport, has formed an alliance with the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment.
The developer has proposed three major projects that will impact the redevelopment of the ageing cruise ship port and the Montego Freeport community; the public space at Dump-Up Beach and the struggling Gloucester Avenue Hip Strip, which is fast losing any semblance of how it had earned its name.
"MoBay is not what we expect it to be as a tourism capital," Moe told tourism stakeholders at a special consultation meeting at Half Moon in Montego Bay, where the plan was unveiled last Thursday, arguing there was immense potential for the city to become the premier tourism destination.
In his hourlong presentation, complemented by responses from president and CEO of the PAJ, Professor Gordon Shirley, and Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, Moe spoke of a three-phased project aimed at improving the perception of the tourist resort, which he said was "disorganised and home to ageing infrastructure".
"The plan is to develop key areas, commencing with Montego Freeport, which is the first point of entry for 25 per cent of the cruise ship passengers who visit Jamaica," said the developer, adding that the port had earned the title of being the second worst in docking facility in the Caribbean.
The project will see the building of jogging trails, bicycle paths, sidewalks from Montego Freeport to the Hip Strip. This will allow tourists and locals to traverse the corridor in a safe environment.
The Port Authority is working on the redesign of the pier to include high-end shops, such as Michael Kors, Prada and Coach, fine dining restaurants and entertainment.
The goal, said PAJ President Shirley, is to make Montego Bay the jewel in the crown.
"Cruise shipping has changed dramatically worldwide, they [passengers and operators] know Jamaica is an exciting place, but they also know of our challenges," he said.
Shirley, whose agency manages Jamaica's cruise ports, wants each port to have its own uniqueness.
"They must be able to differentiate themselves, and have the ability to increase the earning potential of the industry," he said.
He also assured the meeting that locals would not be left out of the plans, while Moe, in his presentation, described the development of proper municipal spaces for the use of locals and tourists alike as essential to the success of any tourism product.
"If we can commingle land based with cruise ship as well, it would create a synergy in the product that was not possible otherwise," he said.
The full costing of the project over its various stages is still being finalised, Sunday Business was told, but the first phase, which includes the jogging trail, is estimated at US$1.5 million ($173m).
In the second phase, the focus will be on the development of public space at Dump-Up Beach, to be called 'Freedom Beach'.
RECREATIONAL SPACE NEEDED
"It was proposed that Montego Bay was in dire need of a park, akin to Emancipation Park in Kingston. There is no properly developed public recreational space in Montego Bay, where locals and tourists can relax in a safe and comfortable environment," said Moe.
The PAJ and Moe believe that if this can be accomplished it would raise the stature as a tourism destination and as a city. Moe emphasised that meeting this objective would require the cooperation and collaboration of many government agencies and private-sector companies.
Already, the TEF and the Ministry of Tourism have endorsed the concept.
Minister McNeill concurred with Moe, stating that Montego Bay needed its own marquee attraction. He said Freedom Park would have a well-maintained beach with sanitary conveniences, similar to what was done in Ocho Rios' Turtle River Park.
In addition, there will be six-a-side football fields, a cultural centre, bandstand and an area for commerce.
The Hip Strip was McNeill's main focus, however. He wants to see work commencing there as soon as possible.
But Moe said the revitalisation of the Hip Strip needs to be done incrementally. "To do it properly, it will take a lot of funding," the developer said.
He is proposing expansion of the walkways, installation of CCTVs, which has already commenced, the repositioning of the power lines underground and streamlining of traffic.
"A rising tide floats all ships. If we can promote the quality of the infrastructure, this will naturally promote the quality of the business and tourist offerings on the strip," Moe said.