Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Jamaican Institute of Architects wants Cabinet to reconsider Heroes Park plan

Published:Monday | April 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer
A section of the entrance to National Heroes Park.

Most of the inner-city community of Allman Town, Kingston 4, would be wiped out if Government goes ahead with its master plan of developing the area in and around Heroes Park in a project known as the Oval Zone project, the College of the Fellows of the Jamaican Institute of Architects is warning.

Under a memorandum of understanding between the Jamaican Government, through the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), and China Construction of America, South America division (CCASA), the master plan, in its current form, would pave the way for construction of a new Parliament building, government ministries and a national museum. The proposal calls for the Parliament building to be sited in the centre of Heroes Park on an estimated 19.5 acres, with the museum taking up 4.2 acres. So in addition to the 15 acres already fenced off for the memorial sites, this plan effectively removes 40 acres of the 50-acre site.

"Among our concerns was that the master plan was to be developed and finalised by CCASA/UDC without the benefit of any public consultations, and we deeply regret that these concerns were ignored," the consultant architects note in a letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness dated April 16, 2018.

 

DEVASTATING IMPACT

 

Among the concerns is that buildings that now house the ministries of finance, education, and labour and social security would have to be demolished to make way for new structures. It is, however, the devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of residents of the area that is of particular concern.

"Virtually all existing residential and commercial buildings within a block around the park are to be demolished, including most of the community of Allman Town," in keeping with the master plan which they have studied in detail, the architects charge.

"The cost and disruption that would be involved in demolishing the existing ministry buildings, relocation operations to interim facilities, and constructing new buildings to replace them would be an enormous waste to the country. The further cost of acquiring and demolishing entire communities in the surrounding areas would also be astronomical, not to mention the disruption and displacement of the thousands of people living and working there.

"This approach to urban renewal is contrary to accepted best practices worldwide and would only be contemplated if there was no other option and if there were extremely compelling reasons to do so. Locating the Government's ministries in one central location cannot be considered a compelling reason for this disastrous proposal!"

In appealing to Cabinet to let common sense prevail by holding off on a final decision, subject to high levels of public consultation to properly inform this landmark proposal, given its lasting impact, the Jamaica Institute of Architects argues that it would be foolhardy to go ahead with the plan.

"The proper procedure for preparing a master plan for developing projects for the Oval Zone area, or any other area for that matter, must involve a high level of public consultation. That is so that you can have inputs from stakeholders - not only planning and design professionals, but residents and business people in the immediately affected areas and civil society in general as all Jamaicans will be permanently affected by the social, economic and environmental consequences resulting from the decisions you make on this project."