Duncan-Price quells property dispute
The intervention of a political representative has brought calm to a clash between the new owners of a central Kingston property and its occupants over delays in vacating the premises, which is to be developed into a grocery store and café.
The Gleaner understands that the $4.65-million property, located at the corner of Charles Street and Rum Lane, was officially transferred to the new Russian owners, Aleksei Sadovnikov and Anna Korneeva, on January 15 this year. Since then, the couple has been trying feverishly through the courts to get the more than 20 occupants to move out. They last went to court over the matter in May.
The situation reportedly escalated two weeks ago when a team, including a contractor, turned up at the premises, apparently with the intention of knocking down sections of the building.
A verbal clashed ensued, triggering the intervention of the police and Imani Duncan-Price, who has ambitions of representing Central Kingston in the House of Representatives.
While some occupants have moved out, others expressed a difficulty in finding a new home, partly due to the economic crunch brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They had gotten another date in terms of when the owners could occupy certain parts of the building. At that point in time, the bar operator on Charles Street, a few days later, proceeded to move his things out, so the bar area is now empty as well as some of the side rooms,” Duncan-Price told The Gleaner on Monday.
CULTURAL, LANGUAGE BARRIERS
She said cultural and language barriers have been preventing the parties from clearly understanding each other’s perspective.
“Everyone accepts that they have bought the location and that is not in dispute. The issue has been around sufficient time for the occupants to find other locations to move and that there needs to be enough leeway, given the circumstances economically,” Duncan-Price added. “Only one person has a formal job and one lady earns from time to time as a cook.”
She explained that if some sections of the old structure are demolished, other areas could unintentionally topple.
She arranged a meeting with both parties to find a solution.
“The owners of the property are going to be developing the front, where a bar formerly was, as well as the side of the building, while allowing the current occupants sufficient time to find new homes or build it,” Duncan-Price said.
She added that discussions were also had on how the new enterprise could benefit residents of the area.
“The people of the lane want development to happen. They would like to participate in terms of building the area. The young men who are not working right now can get some of the work in terms of jobs in construction. They (the couple) want to build a grocery store on the corner that would serve the downtown region. Members of the community can actually work in the store as well,” she said.
The politician said that while the goal in moving the area forward is to help find ways to facilitate investment, there is a significant housing problem.
“We need a renewal of housing. We need to figure out how to develop the community with affordable and dignified housing that feels good and they can own it, and so people can’t just come in and buy stuff from under you,” she said. “The people didn’t expect it, but the good thing is that the dialogue remains open.”