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JCC prioritises urban redevelopment

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August 31, 2022: Excited about the wave of redevelopment efforts in downtown Kingston, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) said it also wants to see the transitioning of similar activities to other urban centres across the island.

“Our main focus this year is to enhance the centres of commerce in the country. As a result of congestion and run-down facilities across a lot of our town centres including Montego Bay, May Pen, Mandeville and Savanna-la-mar, we have found that the ease of doing business in these centres is not where it should be.

“We believe that if commerce is to be driven we need to undertake repairs. The Government sometimes have a strategy of building bypasses for towns which may ease some congestion but that’s not all that needs to be done,” said Ian Neita, president of the JCC at a recent Jamaica Observer Business Forum.

Focused on creating an environment which allows for improved structures and for businesses to thrive and move forward, the chamber supported by public and private sectors and international donor agencies have all ramped up efforts to get this objective off the ground. Working with the various chamber chapters and an all island network, the JCC, which primarily focuses on activities in the corporate area, said that dialogue remains ongoing as it tries to prime centres outside of Kingston for development. The ongoing redevelopment activities in downtown Kingston is to serve as a catalyst for other renewal projects.

“The idea is that if we can get Kingston, our capital city right and have it as shining example, then the template would be there for the rest of the country. It’s not just about beautification, but also about commerce and being able to access the required public and government services,” stated Michael McMorris, vice-president of the JCC, who also has oversight responsibility for the downtown Kingston project.

Recently partnering with the Kingston Creative to improve the central business district of downtown, the JCC believes the project will not only leverage the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) designation of Kingston as a Creative City of Music, but will also through the planned development open up a new wave of economic and social benefits for residents, communities and businesses. This, while it also unearths increased opportunities for investment. With plans to transform the city’s infrastructure, buildings, public art and green spaces into a block of excellence, stakeholders have been pushing to accelerate innovation and to monetise the city’s overall global competitiveness.

McMorris said that while the concept of urban renewal was not new, it was a lack of consistency over the years that has led to increased blight, resulting in the need for significant reforms, governance and greater private, public, people and third party partnerships as calls for renewal grows stronger.

“What we need is a sustainable manner to run the affairs of downtown, while not taking away from the role of the municipal and local authority bodies. The idea is to get a sustainable institution and organised structure that is made up of private and public sector stakeholders along with the community,” he told journalist during the forum.

Engaging the Philadelphia model as a template, the project looks to integrate key aspects across environmental, economic and social spheres as it moves to adopt international best practices.

“The objective we have for downtown Kingston is to create what we call a virtuous cycle. Once we can get that increased traffic back to the capital city then that will create an avenue for greater commerce — and that’s the type of cycle we are talking about,” McMorris said, stressing the need for a serious, joined-up approach and project synchronisation to keep the process moving.