Get cracking on downtown Kingston redevelopment
Andrew King, Guest Columnist
The downtown Kingston redevelopment programme was initiated by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in the late 1960s. Since then, there have been many consultations, master development plans and announcements of projects that would be the catalyst for the redevelopment of downtown Kingston. Fast-forward to 2014 and examine the achievements within the development framework over these 50-plus years.
Any successful long-term revitalisation and redevelopment of downtown Kingston must include private-public partnerships. The UDC, through consultations, may convene the strategy process, but that must quickly be led by the private entities (both local and international) whose time and money will ultimately determine the effort's success.
The following are recommendations to the prime minister, who has direct responsibility for the UDC:
1. A good starting point for comprehensive urban renewal is the redevelopment of Heroes Circle, which will require the redesigning of the exterior of Heroes Park to allow the adding of a third road lane around the park and down East Street (long-term vision is to transform East Street into a Knutsford Boulevard with residential and commercial development). The construction of a modern double-chambered Parliament building with underground parking will be a new feature of Heroes Circle. The current George William Gordon House can be renamed the Legislative and Parliamentary Museum.
2. Relocate the Office of the Police Commissioner, ministries of Justice, National Security, Attorney General's Chambers (currently paying millions in rent at the NCB Towers), and the Urban Development Cooperation into a newly constructed energy-efficient integrated government complex to be located where the Machado Complex and the Central Sorting Office is currently located. This integrated government complex will change the skyline of the capital and will provide underground and surface parking, and ensure a 24/7 police presence downtown. It is envisioned that departments within the Jamaica Constabulary Force currently renting will be located within the complex along with the proposed FBI-style agency. Importantly, the public can quickly and conveniently access services, other government agencies and departments currently paying rent uptown. The land where the current police commissioner's office is located should to be utilised for residential development. If/when the global logistics hub becomes a reality, there will be an increased demand for housing and other services by Jamaicans and expatriates, we must include in our planning water taxi and ferry services from downtown to the Goat Islands.
3. Local and international investors should be invited by the Government to construct modern eco-friendly and energy-efficient apartment towers featuring underground and multistorey surface parking where the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre is currently located. Other sites downtown, particularly sites overlooking the Kingston Harbour, should be earmarked for eco-friendly residential and commercial developments. Buildings and land in public ownership and strategically located sites that offer opportunities to introduce residential and commercial projects can act as catalysts in reversing the dynamics leading to deterioration. The Government should identify lands owned along East Street and earmark for modern residential apartment towers for young professionals.
4. Demolish the current Justice Square multi-level parking lot and construct a new multistorey building, which will feature increased multi-level parking, additional courtrooms and judge's chambers, and all the amenities of a modern court building.
5. Relocate the Kingston Craft Market and use existing land and lands north of the craft market (along Port Royal Street and Spanish Town Road) for the construction of multistorey office spaces for the ICT and business process outsourcing industry. The increased traffic on this side of the city should breathe new life into the underutilise bus park;
6. Construction of a boardwalk over the Kingston Harbour (along the waterfront which will require redesigning) will feature restaurants, games arcade for kids, pubs, nightclub and retail stores.
7. Construction and extension of the waterfront west of the proposed Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade building pass the Tower Street prison and Rae Town fishing village (which will require proper facilities).
8. Construction of a scenic drive along the harbour side of the Michael Manley Boulevard.
Let us truly honour the late Francis Kennedy and Maurice Facey by fulfilling their vision of transforming downtown Kingston into the cultural and economic hub of the Caribbean. Maurice Facey's artistic impression of the waterfront and surrounding skyscrapers is an excellent model and point of reference for the government to consider. I urge the prime minister to develop a participatory programme that will promote community and stakeholder involvement in the development of strategies for downtown Kingston.