THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Gleaner editorial of Thursday, June 28, 2012, captioned 'What is the Govt's plan for downtown Kingston?' states that "a plan for downtown is one of the things on which the Government has been largely quiet in the six months that it has been in office". The editorial further expresses concern of a possible slowdown or abandonment of "the downtown Kingston project".
As chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), I wish to assure that there is no intention to abandon or slow down the development process for downtown Kingston. On the contrary, steps are being taken to accelerate the development and to ensure that any project embarked on will be completed on time, within budget, and certainly without some extraneous costs usually associated with works in inner-city communities.
In fact, the board, since taking office in April, has been reviewing the plans for all the special development areas of the corporation and has endorsed the ongoing engagement of the various stakeholders to allow for the development and finalisation of comprehensive plans which reflect the collaboration of the various constituents.
Additionally, and more specifically, on several occasions since taking responsibility for the direction of the UDC, it should be noted that I have publicly expressed the priority of our focus on downtown Kingston. It is seen as having a seminal role to play in the redevelopment charge of the country as a whole.
We are heartened by the strong support and sentiment, underscored by the editorial, which exist for the redevelopment of the city's core. This is a mammoth task and the UDC is committed to begin the process. Further, this board wants to be held accountable for what we say we will do and how we say it will be done.
Our formal engagements and direction will become increasingly evident in the near future. Commencing July 5 to August 9, the UDC will be conducting a series of consultative sessions dubbed 'the Downtown Kingston Network Exchange'.
The Exchange is designed as working sessions to take aspects of the plan closer to a final state in a practical way through stakeholder input, while exploring, encouraging and setting the stage for tangible private-sector investment opportunities consistent with the emerging development plans for downtown Kingston.
We note that the questioning of plans for downtown appears to have been fuelled by the corporation's decision to advertise the Machado Complex for sale, which was previously identified as the possible new headquarters of the UDC.
This decision must, however, be contextualised within business and policy discretion and responsibility, to ensure the best strategic allocation of key assets to support business imperatives at any point in time.
As such, we have determined that placing the Machado Complex on the market for acquisition by an appropriate developer will immediately leverage and maximise its use in the nation's interest. Private-sector investment is not confined to the waterfront; we want it to be citywide.
We acknowledge that there are several challenges, none of which is insurmountable, and we hold the view that through a deliberate and measured approach and with the requisite consultation, plans will be transformed into implementation schedules. This, we believe, will facilitate the most effective and viable approach to the redevelopment quest.
The Government, through Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, has sent a clear signal to the board that action is urgently required. As chairman, I accept the responsibility to ensure that we deliver in a timely manner. You may note that I have not hidden behind the age-old excuse of no resources, for that, too, we will overcome.
K.D. KNIGHT, QC