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US$50m price tag for new parliament building

Published:Wednesday | November 18, 2020 | 12:08 AM
Design Collaborative’s winning design for the new Parliament Building themed ‘Out of Many, One People’.
Design Collaborative’s winning design for the new Parliament Building themed ‘Out of Many, One People’.
Heather Pinnock, general manager of Urban Development Corporation.
Heather Pinnock, general manager of Urban Development Corporation.

The new parliament building designated for National Heroes Circle will cost US$50 million ($7.5 billion), according to the Urban Development Corporation, UDC, the agency that will oversee the project’s implementation.

Its just one of the elements of the project to develop a parliamentary square that will not only create more space for lawmakers to carry out their legislative functions, but will also be positioned as an attraction for Kingston, with green spaces for public enjoyment and interaction.

UDC recently received the final plans from the winning design team, Design Collaborative Limited, following slight tweaks.

“They have taken that winning design refined it and improved and now we have the final version,” said UDC General Manager Heather Pinnock while speaking at an online and public forum hosted by the UDC and Environmental Solutions Limited last Thursday.

“The estimated cost of the construction of the building is just over US$50 million,” she said during the event which was steamed from the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston. The conference centre is itself a state asset held by UDC.

The proposed timeline for construction of the new parliamentary square is May 2021 to March 2023, according to the environmental impact assessment, EIA, published in mid-October.

Efforts at ascertaining how the US$50m would be financed were unsuccessful up to press time.

It’s a slight setback from the initial first-quarter 2021 start date that reportedly had been set for the project. The bidding process for construction started in July, with the winning bidders set for announcement next April, according to the EIA, which was prepared for Design Collaborative by Environmental Solutions Limited.

The team of architects, led by Evan Williams, won the design bid for the parliament project with their submission ‘Out of Many, One People’ in March 2019.

Williams on Tuesday declined to comment on the design adjustments and other elements of the project, saying only UDC is authorised to comment.

The project entails two major stages. The first involves the relocation of Jamaica’s Houses of Parliament, currently located at Duke Street in Kingston, to a new building on seven of the 50 acres designated as National Heroes Park. The remaining space will be transformed into green areas.

The second phase involves renovations outside the boundaries of National Heroes Park, which would result in the relocation of government ministries around the circular boundary of the park and renovating the surrounding communities into a modern city. The ministries operating in the area known as National Heroes Circle include finance, labour and education.

The EIA stated no timeline for the second phase and Pinnock was also unable to give an update, saying elements of the project are still in the planning stages.

“There is a larger project which is in the very early stages. The Houses of Parliament is ready to go forward. When the other projects are being developed, then they must go through this process, an application, and EIA,” she said.

The costings for the rest of the project are also pending.

The National Heroes Circle property was purchased in 1818 by the Kingston Council for some £985. At the time, it was part of a property called Montgomery Pen. The land became known as Kingston Race Course and for a century held the nation’s horse racing events, as well as hosted cricket and cycling events.

In 1953, the track was converted to a public park and renamed George VI Memorial Park. It was renamed National Heroes Park two decades later, in 1973, and serves as the official place of honour for Jamaican heroes and dignitaries.