Sat | Jan 20, 2018

'KSAC died on us' - Stakeholders say body failed to encourage reinvestment

Published:Tuesday | September 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A section of downtown Kingston on a wet day.
Morin Seymour
Stephen Facey
Dr Carol Archer

Key stakeholders in downtown Kingston's rejuvenation say they cannot afford to bury what they call a 'dead' Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) that they claim has failed in its duty to lead the centuries-old city into 21st-century prosperity.

"They have died on us, the KSAC; literally died on us," lamented Morin Seymour, executive director of the Kingston Restoration Company, who is blaming political leadership for the "slow" efforts to lead a process of reinvestment in the city.

"KSAC was incorporated to manage the city so the private sector can invest. Go down King Street, you have all these stores. What they do in cities across the world (is that) each store pays a tax that goes towards the restoration of the city. Different cities employ different things," he told a recent editors' forum on development prospect in the city.

"We have to pick up the ball and we have to challenge the KSAC to wake up."

Reports upon reports over many decades have pointed to unachieved targets to bring downtown into a 21st-century city centre by addressing urban sprawl, blight and crime.

"Managing," investor Stephen Facey said, "is a very important part of any enterprise, and the city is an enterprise. the country is an enterprise just like a business. The success or failure of an enterprise has a lot to do with how it's managed."

He continued: "Think, if you look around our towns and cities, not Kingston alone, they don't represent us very well, and I would say they show a lack of care and attention not only by those responsible for managing them, but by all of us who use it.

"Kingston didn't get this way by accident. Downtown Kingston was our interface with the world, and sometime in the '50s and '60s, the method of transporting cargo and the size of ships all changed and we had to build a new port, and the whole face of the city was ripped down, filled in, and a new plan was set up, but that plan got partially executed."

New Kingston came along, leaving the old town with its narrow streets and historic buildings to rot and the garrison politics that Facey said has "stymied growth".

Facey's Pan-Jam and partner, Downing Street, acquired Oceana Hotel, downtown Kingston, from the Urban Development Commission for $385 million in 2014 and are redeveloping the property through Kingchurch Property Holdings Limited.

City planner and University of Technology lecturer Dr Carol Archer has sat on various government committees that have overseen the proposals and legislative attempts to give force to many of the reports on how to drive growth and renewal in downtown.

She joined Facey and Seymour in calling for the KSAC, as well as the Urban Development Corporation, to become more active in their promotion of a plan for the rejuvenation of the city that today, remains a melting pot of Jamaican culture.

"I personally worked on the development order for Kingston and St Andrew. We started in 2012; we finished in 2013. It's (proposed order) languishing there (Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel) for three years."

The KSAC has responded, meanwhile, saying that while it "understands" the concerns of the players, the authority has been doing what it can to "transform" the city.

"Under the previous administration, we were invited to participate with several stakeholders to look at a particular series of subjects," Town Clerk Robert Hill said, pointing out that talks under the previous administration included proposed work on the waterfront, the Ward Theatre, and the removal of transportation services from the parade area.

"Since the new administration, the Cabinet may have put other interests in place, but we are still very ready to participate."

- J.J.