Thu | Sep 19, 2019

Morant Bay Urban Centre development ready to roll

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 5:02 PMKarena Bennett/Business Reporter

 

Construction of the long-planned Morant Bay Urban Centre in St Thomas, contracted to China Harbour Engineering Company, will be launched officially on June 26.

The US$49.8 million ($6.5 billion) centre, spearheaded by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, will replace the old Goodyear factory that has sat idly on the land for over 20 years.

The centre is expected to bring at least 3,000 jobs upon completion of the project, set for two years, and spur growth in what is often described as the “forgotten parish”.

Spanning 365,000 square feet, the Morant Bay Urban Centre will create a “one-stop shop” for residents with the amalgamation of the essential services provided by the government, supported by additional services offered by the private sector.

The centre has been earmarked to house the St Thomas Municipal Council, the parish court, Tax Administration/Revenue Centre, an office of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and a branch of the National Insurance Fund.

These state agencies will account for approximately 40 per cent of the available commercial rental space with the other 60 per cent being made available to other Government agencies and private sector investors.

It is understood that the facility will be designed to accommodate business from at least one financial institution, a library, a medical centre, a wellness centre, a day care, tertiary institutions, a purpose built manufacturing and industrial space for small, medium and large enterprises, as well as space for a Business Process Outsourcing facility.

Morant Bay Urban Centre, which has been described as a game changer for the people of St Thomas, will also house retail businesses in food court and shopping facilities.

“The groundbreaking will trigger all the necessary preparation work to get blocks in the ground and while we are doing that we will have discussions with potential clients,” Chairman of FCJ, Lyttleton ‘Tanny’ Shirley, told the Financial Gleaner.

“We have gotten overwhelming interest, but as you know we are Government so we can’t just pick somebody,” he said.

Shirley noted that the companies chosen to take up space at the centre will be selected through an unsolicited bidding process.

“This way nobody can accuse us of putting who we want there so that the people in the community will be happy,” he said.

Shirley says most of the jobs are expected to flow from the BPO facility. As to concerns as to whether local residents had the skills sets to qualify for jobs the centre will create, he told the Financial Gleaner that the FCJ has already reached out to institutions like HEART Trust/NTA to provide training opportunities.

“Those institutions have been encouraging the residents to get the needed skills in the next two years so that they can a get job when the complex is open. We intend to have majority of the people hired from the community,” the FCJ chairman said.

Under the joint venture partnership between FCJ and CHEC, the Chinese company will hold a 30 per cent stake in the centre, FCJ will own 29 per cent, while the other 41 per cent will be made available to other investors.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com