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Vox pop for Western Focus

Published:Tuesday | June 23, 2015 | 6:00 AMBarrington Flemming
Glendon Harris, mayor of Montego Bay and chairman of the St James Parish Council.
A diagram showing the waterfront park and coastal zone management project, which will form an integral part of the plans to modernise the city of Montego Bay and make it sustainable.

After years of stagnation, the city of Montego Bay is now poised to experience significant development over the next 15 years thanks to a multibillion-dollar initiative dubbed the Montego Bay Action Plan, which is a joint venture between the St James Parish Council and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The plan, which falls under the Emerging Sustainable Cities Initiative and is estimated to cost approximately US$425 million (J$48 billion), is designed to reverse the effects of years of unplanned development, while seeking to reposition Montego Bay as a sustainable city.

In describing the plan as the road map that will transform the western city into a modern city, Montego Bay's mayor, Councillor Glendon Harris, said that as the local planning authority, the parish council would do all it could to facilitate the smooth flowing of the project.

"Being the local planning authority, we will educate the population as to what is needed, how and where. That will guide us in our approval process in the different areas," said Harris. "We really want to move this to a development order for the entire parish so that things are zoned for certain areas. We also need to look at crime and violence and the unstructured developments."

five priority areas

The plan, which was crafted over a two-year period by the technical team from the IDB and the St James Parish Council through investigation and research, includes 70 short- and long-term actions, or interventions, revolving around five priority areas.

The five priority areas, which were carefully outlined at the recent launch of the project in Montego Bay, are as follows:

n Sanitation;

n Urban development planning and transportation;

n Employment and training;

n Public safety and reduction of vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters;

n A major thrust to redevelop downtown Montego Bay.

AndrÈs Blanco, sector coordinator of the Emerging Sustainable Cities Initiative at the IDB, said he was fully supportive of the public-private sector partnerships to provide the financial base for the implementation phase of the multi-dimensional plan. He said the IDB was there primarily to give technical support and to play a facilitation role.

" ... the idea after that is to help the city to find sources and to create a financial plan through private-public partnerships or money from donor agencies or from the IBD, which would be for the next step of the development," Blanco said.

The plan, as outlined by Blanco, includes an integrated urban strategy for the sustainable development of downtown Montego Bay. It will see a pilot housing project, which will forms part of a comprehensive neighbourhood-upgrading strategy for the city. The overall aim is to improve the quality of life of those residents in vulnerable communities.

"An example of the programme will be the Railway Lane community, where the project will develop seven blocks of this informal settlement into 419 housing units, as well as provide green spaces," revealed Blanco, who also noted that the Charles Gordon Market is to undergo structural improvements to include a new roof and faÁade and a new plaza with green spaces.

Also included in the plans is an initiative to revitalise the two-kilometre stretch from the Old Hospital Park to the River Bay Fishing Village, which is to be transformed into a public-access beach and park coastal zone management project.

"The integrated waterfront park will include a boardwalk park, seawall pier, public beaches, and seaside recreational activities," Blanco explained.