Sun | Apr 18, 2021

Rebuild downtown Kingston block by block

Published:Tuesday | December 6, 2011 | 12:00 AM
The Digicel building moves closer to completion near the waterfront in downtown Kingston.Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Correction & Clarification

Architect Al Richards was referred to as Al Edwards. We regret the error and apologise for any inconveniences caused.


Arthur Hall, Gleaner Writer

AFTER YEARS of leading a one-man campaign for a makeover of downtown Kingston, architect Al Richards, has welcomed recent moves to achieve a rebirth of the city. But Richards, is concerned that the redevelopment plan lacks the focus and organisation needed to make it a success. "Downtown has the infrastructure and it is not being utilised. It is ugly and nobody wants to live there, so the powers that be need to take a serious look and do what needs doing," Richards told The Gleaner in a recent interview.

According to Richards, he has tried to sell his redevelopment plan to every prime minister since P.J. Patterson, with little success.

Now, he wants whoever elected to lead the country after the general election to take a serious look at what he has put on the table.

"My idea is to inject new people, of a higher socio-economic level, into downtown Kingston. That is the only ingredient through which the city can be redeveloped," said Richards.

"My idea would be to first of all take a core area which has few residential buildings and several derelict buildings and underutilised structures.

"We would then select the vacant lands and derelict buildings and knock them down to build multi-storey buildings and attract new people as residents," added Richards.

According to Richards, the area he would start with is the section of downtown bordered by North Street, East Queen Street, Rum Lane and Johns Lane.

That is an area with 16 city blocks and provides a natural link between the downtown core and uptown.

"We would build, we would sell and then we would take another block and march our way down to the waterfront."

Richards said his redevelopment plan would include the construction of a shopping plaza, supermarket, park and a day-care facility.

"A part of the problem is that the city has no life. Everybody tries to leave downtown once it gets dark. You have a little life on East Queen Street, but I envisage East Queen Street from the St William Grant Park to Hanover Street as a hip strip with restaurants and stuff like that," said Richards.

According to the outspoken architect, the redevelopment plan could be financed by soft loans from European countries which were involved in the transatlantic slave trade.

"Not one dollar out of Government coffers would be spent on the project. We would repay the loan in 20 years because we are building and reselling for a profit," said Richards.