Sat | Jun 25, 2022

Downtown Kingston’s redevelopment gathers pace

Published:Tuesday | June 14, 2022 | 12:07 AM
The newly constructed boardwalk along the Kingston waterfront.
The newly constructed boardwalk along the Kingston waterfront.
A commercial building under construction in downtown Kingston.
A commercial building under construction in downtown Kingston.

The City of Kingston, particularly the downtown area, is gradually coming alive again as various infrastructural developments continue to unfold.

These new developments have breathed new life into the area, bringing resurfaced roads, refurbished structures, the erection of new buildings and the relocation of businesses, including eateries/restaurants, which have brought patrons back to downtown Kingston to conduct business and enjoy recreational activities.

One of the latest fixtures to be unveiled is the new aesthetically appealing boardwalk, which now greets visitors to Port Royal Street along the segment spanning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade building to the Rae Town fishing beach.

The 4.7-metre-wide boardwalk where persons can comfortably engage in commercial and recreational activities, was created under the just completed $1.3-billion Port Royal Street Coastal Revetment Project, implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) to safeguard the corridor from continued erosion and the effects of storm surges.

The project comprised the implementation of one kilometre of composite seawall and armour stone revetment structure, upgrading of drainage features, rehabilitation and raising of one kilometre of existing roadway, and installation of the boardwalk.

An 80-metre fishing beach was also created for fisherfolk in the area, who currently berth their vessels along the shoreline.

Completed in March, the project was officially handed over to mayor of Kingston, Senator Delroy Williams, by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a ceremony on May 18.

This gesture means that the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation now has general management of the project.

Holness explained that the municipal authority will be responsible for encouraging commerce along the boardwalk, including businesses, concerts and other activities, and ensuring that the fishing village is clean and accessible.

Aesthetic improvement

The prime minister said that the work has not only resulted in much better organisation of the traffic in the eastern end of Kingston, “but the greater effect is the aesthetic improvement of the area. It just looks so much better; it gives a sense as if Kingston is finally coming alive as a city. Kingston is finally starting to make tiny baby steps to fulfil its true potential”.

Holness further shared his vision of what a revitalised downtown Kingston, particularly the waterfront area, will look like.

“Cast your mind to a waterfront for our beautiful city of Kingston that is fully developed, where we have more buildings on the waterfront, a dramatic and beautifully lit skyline, where at all hours of the day and night there is traffic on the road – there is pedestrian traffic, there is entertainment, we have cultural activities; a city that is alive and energetic where people can say, ‘I’m heading downtown where the fun is, where the enjoyment is, where the arts and culture is’,” he said.

Importantly, Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage will continue to be kept alive through the works of art that will be created along the revetment wall, further enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the area.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange pointed out that through the murals, “homage [will be paid] to the history [of Kingston] and bring focus to the mission of conservation, restoration, protection and promotion of all aspects of our heritage – the tangible and intangible, the natural and the built heritage of Kingston”.

Grange said her ministry has partnered with JSIF to designate two commissioned works along the revetment wall a Jamaica 60 project.

“In addition to creating a new space for community interaction and for the attraction of locals and foreign visitors, the project has a practical component as it is not only a project that serves to mitigate the ravages of climate change, but it has created a new blank slate on which the many creatives, the many street artists, the many muralists can express their ideas and vision of the city of Kingston,” she said.

Another set of stakeholders who have bought into the vision of a revitalised downtown Kingston are the fisherfolk who berth their boats and ply their trade at the Rae Town Fishing Village.

They shared that they appreciate and recognise the value of the development, which has served to enhance their lives.

Speaking on behalf of the 34 fisherfolk who have benefited from the development, Davean Ellis said he and his counterparts are grateful for the project, which, in sustaining the shoreline along the Port Royal Street, will aid in ensuring the longevity of their enterprises.

“I am positive that I can look forward to see growth in the fishing business and also, I know that all fisherfolk can attest … that this has been a significant improvement in our lives as fishermen,” he said.

“On behalf of the fisherfolk, I just want to thank JSIF, the Government of Jamaica and all stakeholders who made [this] possible,” he gushed.

The beach was developed in consultation with the fisherfolk, facilitated by the National Fisheries Authority.

Implemented over a two-year period, the Port Royal Street Coastal Revetment Project is the single largest undertaken by the entity in its 25-year history.

It forms part of several infrastructure projects of the JSIF’s World Bank-funded Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) which seeks to enhance Jamaica’s resilience to negative climate-change impacts.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said that in order to create a fully protected coastline for downtown Kingston, another 20 kilometres of revetment work will need to be done “from the west going past the cement factory, going as close as possible to the roundabout at Palisadoes”.

“The Urban Development Corporation (UDC)… has already started that work … . Clearly, we won’t be able to do it all at once, but we will do it in segments and we would consider this to be the first segment, but the work that has been started by JSIF will be continued by the UDC,” he said.

The prime minister said there are plans for greater investment in the development of the commercial and residential real estate in downtown Kingston.

“We have been speaking with the World Bank … about developing a project for the urban renewal of downtown Kingston. We are very serious about that; we believe that this can be a major catalyst for economic growth in this area,” he noted.