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UDC, KSAC must combine efforts to restore downtown Kingston

Published:Tuesday | September 13, 2016 | 9:00 AMJason Cross

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) are being held responsible for the long-time absence of growth and development of downtown Kingston.

This declaration was made during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held last week at the company's North Street offices in Kingston, to discuss ways on how to get downtown buzzing once again - drawing a constant flow of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, boosting the overall physical image of the area and attracting spenders.

Merty Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, along with city planner and University of Technology lecturer Dr Carol Archer believe that both organisations need to combine their influences to bring about the much-needed development.

"I think the UDC should be given the responsibilities to do so, along with the KSAC. They would be the ones who would develop the area," Seaga told The Gleaner.

Archer stated that both agencies served their individual purposes and if they came together, then the process of restoration would be much smoother and successful.

She also added the National Environment and Planning agency (NEPA) to the list of organisations that can and should play a major role.

"There are different (pieces of) legislation the UDC can use and that the KSAC can utilise to bring about growth and development downtown, like the Building Act, which is the purview of the KSAC. Once that is tasked, then it would address issues like energy efficiency, safety and in constructing buildings downtown. The development order, which is the land-use planning instrument for buildings downtown, lies within the KSAC (portfolio) and it is done with NEPA, the town and planning authority."

"UDC has a wider expanse of technical skills. They are able to work (efficiently) with the Town and Country Planning Authority through NEPA, and the KSAC (would) develop the plan. The KSAC will then have the instrument of zoning and land use, in collaboration with UDC, to execute and to give the planning approval for downtown. The Town and Country Planning Authority, the KSAC, and the UDC need to work together," she told The Gleaner.

slow process to get laws passed

The main obstacle cited by Archer was having laws passed to support and facilitate the downtown Kingston growth agenda.

"The plans (to restore) have been there - looking at how to rezone the entertainment district, rezone those pedestrian areas for infill housing, the high-density housing, multistorey buildings, and so forth. All of these areas have been identified in the development order but is still languishing in the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC), so it cannot get to Parliament for the minister to then sign off on it. Once CPC says OK - the language, the format and so forth is OK - then it becomes what they call a provisional order," Archer said.

She continued: "When it becomes a provisional order, you bring the public on board and say OK, you're going to have this area serving as such, and that area as such, and then you have the broad public consultation. That has not yet taken place and that's what we are waiting on. It is still not an official piece of document because it has not gone through the process. It's very slow."

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com