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UDC dumps Machado plan

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM
A motorcyclist rides past the Machado Complex at the intersection of Victoria Avenue and South Camp Road which was acquired by UDC to relocate its headquarters. UDC has now placed the property on the market. File

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has abandoned plans to move its operations to the Machado Complex which was purchased for $80 million in 2010 for that purpose.

The property was offered for sale by the state developer in press advertisements on Friday, June 22, but Wednesday Business was unable to ascertain whether this meant that plans to sell UDC's current HQ, the Office Centre Building, had been put on hold or disbanded.

Machado is a 3.5-acre complex located at 22-26 Victoria Avenue, near the heart of downtown Kingston.

Prospective bidders have just two weeks in which to prepare and submit their tenders for the offer, which ends on July 6, and must provide a summary of their development concept; the offer price; the projected time frame for the completion of the development and a demonstration of financial capacity.

Queries to UDC acting General Manager Desmond Young regarding the pending sale were not answered up to press time.

UDC acquired the Machado property - once used for the manufacturing of cigarettes - from Kingston Restoration Company (KRC) for a planned office relocation from its current base on the Kingston waterfront.

KRC Executive Director Morin Seymour then touted the transaction as a sweet deal for his agency. The J$80-million price was more than 20 times the J$3.75 million KRC paid the Cigarette Company of Jamaica for the complex back in 1988.

The Machado family owned the now-defunct Cigarette Company before it was acquired by Carreras.

The Machado complex was converted from tobacco to a garment factory in the 1980s, but when the industry died, the building was rented out to tenants in different lines of business.

The UDC plan to relocate, as outlined by the agency's then boss Joy Douglas back in January 2010, was to move operations in 2011 after refurbishing and retrofitting the complex.

UDC has a staff corps of 505 and manages a portfolio of J$30 billion of assets.

The reason for the planned move, at the time, was to make room for private-sector investment in the eastern section of the downtown waterfront, and the demand for office space there. The 200,000-square foot Office Centre Building at 12 Ocean Boulevard was also to have been placed on the market.

However, take-up for office space on the waterfront has been less than expected. The 12-floor Oceana building, which was first placed on the market in 2009, was also recently readvertised for sale. Bids for that property are due by Friday.

President of the Realtors Association of Jamaica, Howard Johnson Jr, said last week that uncertainty about the downtown redevelopment plan might be affecting the sale of property in the area, even with tax incentives on offer to investors.

"Although some movements are consistent with an overall vision of the redevelopment of downtown, the project has not been gaining the traction that we hoped for," said the realtor, who is also head of Johnson Benjamin & Associates Limited.

"Therefore, some investors may not be as comfortable as others or are just uncertain as to the exact direction that the redevelopment project will take, or more important, when it will materialise to the level that will warrant the investment," he said.