Mon | Jan 21, 2019

‘My vision for downtown Kingston’

Published:Tuesday | March 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMAndrew Harris
Sasha-Kay Gilzean (left) and Licea-Ann Smith of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co enjoying the seafood soup which warmed the body during the PSOJ mingle in downtown Kingston.
Trisha Williams-Singh, senior corporate relations manager at Digicel (right) has a story to tell to Michael McGrane, senior commercial manager in charge of mobile advertising at Digicel and Craig Mair, senior vice president of the Bank of Nova Scotia during the PSOJ mingle in downtown Kingston.
Jacqueline Sharp, president and CEO of the Scotiabank Group in Jamaica (left) listens intently as The Gleaner's managing director Christopher Barnes shares his thoughts during the PSOJ mingle in downtown Kingston.
Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee

Local captains and executives of industry travelled to downtown Kingston recently for the first Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Mingle of 2015.

While they enjoyed themselves on the beautiful 10th floor of the Digicel building at the event dubbed 'Destination Downtown', they took time to share their vision and time line for the city's redevelopment with our news team.

Here are some of the responses.

Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee,

Director of Mona Geoinformatics

"Downtown Kingston has a rich potential and the right ingredients for any kind of business and not just one type of business. Well my vision would be to fall in line with anybody who comes up with a good plan.

"One of the things is that downtown would have to be redeveloped and re-engineered to facilitate the movement of a modern society. Not just people of vehicle, but also telecommunication and stuff like that. We need to understand that this is a growing world, so in other words, some of these old buildings that we see here need to be torn down. I mean right now you want to increase density and bring people back here, we need parking and a lot more to be done.

"There are shot, medium and long term time frame, but short I would say within five years. In five years we can talk about how we will be doing tax incentives in downtown, Kingston, expanding and coming up with more creative ideas. We need to move beyond the talk, so in my five year plan we need to put the talkers on the spot and say it's time to do."


Dennis Chung,

Chief executive officer, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica

"Well I think it has a lot of potential, because anywhere in the world the waterfront is always the most valuable piece of real estate and one of the things I like about downtown, Kingston is that the road system is probably one of the best in Jamaica based on how it is organised.

"There is also the infrastructure in place that I think can develop it as well. The old Oceana Hotel that was just taken over by the Canadian-Jamaican consortium, the Digicel building we are on now, it's just fabulous. The Urban Development Corporation building, those things set the place. The Bank of Jamaica building, Grace Kennedy is here, so I think the future is bright for downtown Kingston.

I think that the main problem has been the crime in downtown, but I would think that you want to develop around the Coronation Market space and in terms of the tax incentive that's here. I think that one of the reason people never took it up, was because the economy was in a slump and now that the economy is coming back I would think that more people are going to be coming to downtown Kingston particularly since New Kingston is such a difficult place to go through now.

"I suspect that within another two years, you will start see some activities down here, especially if the Ministry of Tourism gets through the development of the waterfront and the road leading to it. So I expect within another two years we should start see some great developments."


Dr Marcia Forbes,

Executive chairman, Phase 3 Productions

"My vision for downtown, Kingston is for it to be like the Malecon in Havana, Cuba. When you go to Cuba they have the main hotel in Cuba and it overlooks the sea wall, it is fabulous. You walk in Cuba and you see lovers sitting on he wall, eating their ice-cream, just chilling. And so for downtown, Kingston, my vision is that we get to a state where we can have people from uptown, downtown, around town and rural Jamaica coming into Kingston and feeling safe enough to come downtown and walk along to just enjoy the sights and the sounds."

"I am not into construction, however I see that a downtown Kingston restoration has been going on for probably about 20-years. It's about time now for us to have companies like the way Digicel has done, to set up their head quarters in downtown Kingston. I know Bruce Golding, when he was prime minister, started that push. I was Chairman of the Spectrum Management Authority and we had actually moved it to downtown, Kingston.

"Only a couple of weeks ago Digicel hosted Bob Marley 70th anniversary party over what used to be the Myrtle Bank Hotel site and it was fabulous, it was Phase 3 Productions which covered it and had it streamed live with more than 40,000 persons from all over, including Jamaicans from the Diaspora watching it.

"I know Damion Crawford has an idea that he could use some of these empty sites downtown for entertainment venues. It's a good idea, because when I actually saw the use of that property, old Myrtle Bank Hotel, people felt safe and it was a fantastic concert, and so if you can see more of those things happen to jump start the kind of confidence business people will have in downtown."

"When will it happen will depend on the level of confidence business people will have in downtown Kingston. Like me as a business person I keep investing in my company, I have never pulled back. Based on the increase and improvement in business confidence. I think based on everything that is happening I think we as Jamaican need to get up and get going, but since I am not the driver of these decision, it is hard to tell, but I would hope within the next 10-years we will see other companies in a similar way Digicel has done, located to Downtown, Kingston and make it beautiful as the Digicel building and property is."


Maureen Webber,

Chairman of Development Options Limited:

"You know we are almost there in terms of commercial space revitalisation, but equally important is the focus we need to have on revitalising the residential areas around the commercial district. I would love to see that happen as our critical next step.

"I don't have a particular plan myself, but what I am hoping is to be a part of looking at the social and economic realities for persons who live downtown, to see how we can transform their lives and the rest will come with the environment."

"I would love to see that within another five years, when I come down here; how people live would look different."


Barry O'Brien,

Chief Executive Officer for Digicel Jamaica:

"Obviously it was one of our key initiative to come downtown here which would hopefully stimulate some more growth, to come and work with; Scotia Bank, Grace Kennedy and The Gleaner. The more companies we get down here, the more likely it is for the companies to join and add to our general policy to promote downtown Kingston.

We have seen, in the last few days, some more development with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs coming, so the policy is to encourage more companies to come join us here.

"Well the time lines is continuous, we are obviously here over last few years and hopefully us being here will encourage other companies to come down here as well."


William Mahfood,

President of Private Sector of Jamaica:

"I think when I look at downtown Kingston and see the work of companies like Digicel and a lot of other companies have done in terms of the development, we have really started to cut the edge of what is going to be the real development of downtown to become once more, the highlight of Kingston.

"There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on the internal downtown, but if you look at the commercial activities that take place between Coronation Market, Princess and Beckford Street, West Queens Street, all the way over to Kings Street to Harbour Street, what you will realise is that so much of the island's commercial activities takes place here and the whole uplifting of downtown needs to take place in order for the area to be the gem that is truly is.

"My plan as the PSOJ president is to help to drive economic activity generally in the country, which will in turn help to do a number of restoration works in the city of Kingston. There are a number of incentives in place for the urbanisation and the improving the city and downtown especially. Those are not necessarily the areas the PSOJ is working on. We are focused on the much bigger picture for economic growth.

"I am thinking if we don't see the economic growth in the next two and a half to three years, we are in trouble, but we are very optimistic."