Making Mandeville a university town
Mandeville, the capital of the central Jamaica parish of Manchester, was once driven by bauxite, real-estate development and commerce, but now stakeholders in the parish are looking to something vastly different to drive the economy.
The cool, cool town, already home to a plethora of top-quality educational institutions, could seek its next big economic boom from education, and as the local leadership moves to achieve the long-held dream of transforming Mandeville into a university town, residents are getting on board.
"There have been numerous applications that have come to us, not for normal residence but for buildings to house students," said Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay.
She said the Manchester Parish Council had to be policing these developments as residents have already seen the value and potential earning from preparing space to house students.
One of the main tertiary institutions in the capital, the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), has also seen the possible windfall that could come from providing student housing and is moving to position itself to reap the gains.
"NCU has parish council-approved plans for student housing and that will start anytime now," declared assistant vice-president of finance and facilities at NCU, Sally-Anne Corrodus.
"Other tertiary institutions can and will do the same thing, and what I do know is that many residents in this parish build just for students because education is Manchester's number one industry.
"I can take you to some communities where every single house has accommodation that is built specifically to accommodate students," added Corrodus, who also chairs the Manchester Parish Development Committee.
fit for transformation
For years it has been widely accepted that Mandeville is fit for transformation into a university town.
But this has been nothing more than a dream despite the presence of NCU, Church Teachers' College, Catholic College of Mandeville and many other top-quality educational institutions.
Now the dream is starting to become a reality as stakeholders in the Manchester capital are coming together to implement measures to create a university town that can rival anywhere in the world.
"The mayor and myself have been in discussions with Dr Trevor Gardner (president of NCU) regarding a university town. But you don't get up one day and say we are a university town," said Sally Porteous, Custos of Manchester.
"Various steps have to be taken to become a university town and we are in talks with Dr Gardner and it is our intention to do it, but we don't want to do it when it's wrong, we want to do it when its right. So we have to take those steps, make sure everything is in order then go ahead and do it," added Porteous.
The stakeholders are getting strong support from the political representatives with the member of parliament for the area, Peter Bunting, already announcing his support for Mandeville to be developed into a university town. The man seeking to replace Bunting, Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, is also fully on board.
However, Bartlett is dreaming of more than just the institutions already in place.
"We need to have a setting to attract offshore universities," said Bartlett.
"This could attract significant numbers of overseas students. What we need to do is to attract those universities which have satellite campuses as part of the development of a university town," added Bartlett as he argued that the climate in Mandeville has always been attractive to foreigners.