Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Lord of landlords - UDC owns $40B worth of property islandwide

Published:Sunday | November 1, 2015 | 11:00 AMRyon Jones
Families and friends having fun at the UDC-owned property on the Kingston waterfront in downtown Kingston.
UDC General Manager Desmond Malcolm
1
2

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) is sitting on property valued at more than $39.6 billion across the island.

Information provided to The Sunday Gleaner by the UDC, through an Access to Information Act request, showed that at the end of March, the state-owned entity was one of the richest landlords in Jamaica.

While not disclosing the individual value for each property, the UDC argued that it had to keep this information private as "an official document is exempt from disclosure if its disclosure would reveal ... any other information of a commercial value, which value would be, or could reasonably be expected to be, destroyed or diminished if the information was disclosed".

The UDC was established in March 1968, with the mandate to improve the urban fabric of metropolitan regions across the island, and its general manager, Desmond Malcolm, argued that the acquisition of the various assets was in keeping with this directive.

"There are assets that are there, and the idea is for them to be developed in accordance with the planned use. They can be developed by UDC itself, it can be joint venture, or some of it could be outright sale," said Malcolm.

The UDC owns several prime real-estate assets in areas such as Negril, including several resort properties, which Malcolm said it is now looking to divest.

"We do have property at Seaside in Rose Hall, which is a 60-40 ownership, meaning UDC owns 60 per cent and 40 per cent is the private sector. That was the ownership structure of that property and that is on the market for divestment," said Malcolm.

"We have advertised a number of apartment units that we own in Negril, and we also have one apartment in Montego Bay, Sea Castle, which we intend to divest. And then we have about seven apartments in Ocho Rios that we plan to divest. Those are the ones that we either have on the market now or propose to put on the market within the next month."

While the UDC is planning to dispose of most of the properties in Negril there is one that it intends to keep as its employees are allowed to vacation there at reduced rates, as part of their incentive package.

REDEVELOPING KINGSTON

In addition to those attractive sites, however, the corporation also has on its books properties in areas such as Matthews Lane, Mark Lane, Water Lane and Rose Lane in downtown Kingston, which may prove to be hard to sell.

Some of these properties would fall under the UDC-managed Kingston City Centre Improve-ment Company, which is a non-profit entity mandated to redevelop the downtown Kingston area.

The UDC also manages the Tax Incentive Programme for Urban Renewal, which aims to stimulate urban regeneration by revitalising historic centres and providing opportunities for private capital stakeholders to participate in the redevelopment of blighted areas.

It is through this programme that the corporation hopes to offload some of the properties owned in downtown Kingston, as it permits the UDC to grant tax benefits not only to those who purchase, but also to those who lease refurbished assets.

"We have very few properties that we would describe as being in areas that are hard to sell. Part of our mandate is the redevelopment of downtown. We are also respon-sible for rejuvenation, and in the depressed areas we have a respon-sibility also to spread growth and development," said Malcolm.

"We try to develop them and we try to sell to developers, and we have a tax-incentive programme which covers that development area," added the UDC boss.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com