Sun | Apr 23, 2017

Investors Eye Downtown Kingston for Housing

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2015 | 7:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

The planned transform-ation and redevelopment of downtown Kingston will include a focus on housing development as policymakers aim for the right infrastructure mix, consistent with the dynamics of changing environmental and climatic conditions.

Investors are already looking to cash in on the potential gains from the anticipated overhaul of the capital city, which is projected to become a reality within the next 10 years.

"Developers are actually coming in and making enquiries as it relates to how things can get off the ground. There are several proposals," Leonard Francis, director of spatial and planning at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), told The Gleaner.

"What we are trying to do is to introduce various levels of residence [in downtown Kingston]. We want to introduce mixed-income developments in that area so all classes and income earners would be catered to [because] for a town to be functioning properly, you need persons to be living in that area," he said.

"When we think of areas off Mountain View, in the vicinity of the National Stadium, there are investors right now who will be doing a multimillion-dollar investment in terms of housing," Francis added.

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He said that in areas such as Heroes Circle, Slipe Pen Road and Greenwich Town, there is a lot of land space available.

"There are acres and acres of land available in those areas. Even where Parliament is, there is lots of land. It is something we are looking at and I am confident that within the next five to 10 years, there will be a rush to live in the downtown area," Francis said.

However, he said the residents must have a stake in ensuring that the changing aesthetics

of downtown Kingston are accompanied by other positives.

"Downtown is not as tough as people think. I was very shocked to find that a lot of persons who have businesses downtown actually stay there, and we are not talking about low-income persons. We already have the population there; it's for us to introduce more people in addition to private-public partnerships," the NEPA executive said.

He added: "My worry is that the people who have stayed during the tough times and have developed a love for the area will be pushed out. We have seen the cycle, because the rich once lived downtown and eventually went to the hills and displaced the poor. We have to ensure that with these developments, the poor is catered to."

Former head of the Kingston Restoration Company, Morin Seymour, indicated his agreement with the proposal, adding that there was adequate land space and potential for proper housing solutions to be developed.

"It is very feasible," he said. "In terms of housing, downtown is divided into very small lots, and so areas such as Hanover Street and other communities will have to be assembled so as to have larger properties to build."

Added Seymour: "It must be planned properly, however, as I am totally against loading everything in one area and then it becomes a ghetto which is unable to be policed. There is huge potential, but there has to be structure and security."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com