Tue | Oct 17, 2017

A greener view of 'Cow Sh*t Park'

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM
The Digicel Lady Musgrave Road open lot has been used for fairs, festival and even storing JUTC buses.

The Gleaner's article 'No sale yet' (May 6, 2015) highlighted that Digicel has reduced the sale price for its five-acre Lady Musgrave Road property to 'motivate' buyers. Older folks who grew up in the area remember the land as 'Cow Sh*t Park', which was so named because of the ever-present cow excrement that they skilfully tried to avoid when playing there as children.

It is generally rumoured that the property was the mandatory open space for the Seymour lands subdivision. What this means is that the land was to be developed as a green space, i.e., a park or recreational space to support the residences and businesses in the area. To some extent, though privately owned, the land's current use for football competitions, children's fairs, corporate events and other activities highlight the value and need for this green space in the city.

In this regard, the master's students from the Caribbean School of Architecture, UTech, used the site for one of their major semester projects. A thorough study of the Seymour lands community and environs was undertaken to understand the density, land uses and demographics.

Coming out of their analysis, a twofold approach to the development was proposed. The first proposal mandated that approximately two-thirds of the land be reserved and developed as a public park. The second proposal would be to develop the remaining one-third as a high-density, multistorey, mixed-use development. The park would retain the land on the corner of Lady Musgrave Road and Fairway Avenue, while the building would occupy the southern portion.

The students undertook the proposal for the public park as a group and designed a place that would provide a well-needed recreational oasis. The park would be composed of hard and soft landscaping, with places for active and passive recreation.

Tree-lined walkways linking places for gathering, performances, expositions, picnics, scrimmage, jogging, children's play, parking and other activities were incorporated. A strategic pedestrian connection to Windsor Avenue was conceptualised to connect the small schools along that street to the park. These schools have no playing fields, so it was proposed that they would use the nearby park for physical education and other school activities.

The park would become the centrepiece for Lady Musgrave Road and its environs while retaining the visual release experienced when travelling along the Lady Musgrave Road corridor.

Taking cues from the existing community, each student individually designed a mixed-use building composed of residences, a boutique hotel and a commercial/wellness centre. Having given over two-thirds of the property to the public, the students consolidated the permitted density for the entire property on to the remaining one-third. It was felt that the proximity to the multistorey buildings along nearby Trafalgar Road and New Kingston justified this. The buildings were, on average, six storeys high, with underground parking facilities.

The variety in the student proposals revealed the creative design solutions both in terms of function and aesthetics that are achievable when undertaking these types of interventions.

This is not the only way to develop the property but the work undertaken by the students should be given consideration. The work done at the Caribbean School of Architecture goes beyond the myopic approach to development traditionally undertaken in Jamaica to expose new ideas and opportunities for our built environment. The potential for this valuable piece of real estate on Lady Musgrave Road to be developed in a win-win manner whereby both a private developer and the public will benefit is possible. Tax incentives and increased densities/heights to 'motivate' the landowner could be facilitated to realise an ideal outcome.

Lady Musgrave Road and the surrounding community need a local green space to complement the increasing amounts of high-density, multi-family and commercial developments that now dominate the corridor and surrounding communities. This is how good cities are built.

- Christopher Whyms-Stone is a practising architect at Cornerstone.design Ltd and an educator at the Caribbean School of Architecture, UTech. He is also a former chairman of NEPA/TCPA/NRCA with a special interest in tourism and community development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and cstone@cornerstonecaribbean.com.