MoBay has potential to become first-class city
Reference is made to the proposed Montego Bay Action Plan, a joint venture between the St James Parish Council and the Inter-American Development Bank, which is reportedly expected to bring significant development to the city over a 15-year period.
Urban development planning and transportation are two of the five priority areas of the approximately US$425-million (J$48-billion) plan which will aid in the redevelopment of downtown Montego Bay.
The erection of more parking garages, as well as better demarcated and regulated taxi stands, should be considered as a part of the solution to the congestion of downtown, which is attributable to the lawlessness surrounding cabbies and the lack of adequate parking generally.
For years now, there has been talk about building a bypass for the city that would help greatly in reducing the traffic gridlock. I sincerely hope that, to complement this plan, the Government will seriously consider making a reality the bypass, or development road - the preferred term for some.
Under the Montego Bay Action Plan, consideration should be given to the pedestrianisation of Sam Sharpe Square, making it a true congregation point for locals and tourists alike, as is the case in some major cities across the world. In effect, Sam Sharpe Square should become, in its own right, a welcome tourist attraction in Montego Bay.
The square should be the venue for civic functions and feature various entertainment activities, such as the re-enactment of the Christmas Rebellion. For a square so named, such an event should very much be in order, as we highlight that important part of our history as a country.
I envision a square where some of the unemployed and unattached in communities around the city, rather than engaging in criminal activities or being annoying windscreen washers, would go to showcase their talents (singing, dancing, acrobatic exercises, magician works, and the like) to the delight of locals and visitors alike. And for so demonstrating their talents, those being entertained could leave them monetary tips or pay for the performances.
Illuminated billboard signs and video displays could grace buildings in the square, lighting up that section of the city, such as what one would see in London's Piccadilly Circus or New York's Time Square. The area should offer a renewed shopping and entertainment experience.
The water fountain in the square should be rehabilitated, lighted and coloured for attractive night-time displays. The historic Cage should also be put to better use as a memorial instead of now being used for commercial purposes, thereby complementing nicely the renovated Montego Bay Cultural Centre.
The ‘Hip’ should also be brought back to the Hip Strip along Gloucester Avenue. Once the closed hotels and shops there are put back into business, consideration could be given to close the strip to vehicular traffic, say, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., transforming it into a very lively entertainment strip as obtains in places like Las Vegas and South Beach, Miami.
There is great potential for Montego Bay, as is the case elsewhere across Jamaica, like the very fertile downtown Kingston and Port Royal, as well as Spanish Town. The vision may not necessarily be lacking, but the leadership and will to see the vision through to reality are our greatest shortcomings.