Jamaica News: Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says steps will be taken to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders, particularly residents, under the Government Circle development project being proposed for National Heroes Park in Kingston, and surrounding communities.
The project, being spearheaded by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), will entail the construction of a new building for the Houses of Parliament on a section of the 52-acre Park, new offices for 14 government ministries, and improved housing on some 300 acres of land in several communities around the property.
Speaking at a town hall meeting at the Park on Thursday (October 25), the Prime Minister noted that the National Housing Trust (NHT) has commenced the process of acquiring properties around the Park to undertake residential developments.
While acknowledging that several homes and householders will have to be relocated, Mr. Holness said residents who will be affected need not fear being disadvantaged, as the Government will pursue a process that is fair and equitable.
“I want to assure you that it is not the Government’s intention to relocate [or] take people out of the area and disturb the community… but to provide the opportunity for persons in the community to live under better circumstances and for it to grow,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is about building new infrastructure and providing new residential solutions so that people who are already living here can occupy them,” he added, while assuring that “we will provide the modalities by which they can be afforded”.
Mr. Holness said the NHT has encountered property owners indicating a willingness to sell, and there are others awaiting further details of how the development will unfold and how they will benefit.
“That process will begin as soon as we have completed the consultations and we can escalate the master plan to Cabinet [for approval],” the Prime Minister advised.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the development would not “happen overnight”, and could take between two and five years.
“What we are doing now is to engage you [residents] in conversation, so that you can start to prepare and we can start to help you to prepare,” Mr. Holness said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said the UDC has been charged with the responsibility of identifying and preserving buildings and structures of historic significance and importance.
He hinted that those likely to be considered include the buildings housing the Ministries of Finance and the Public Service; and Education, Youth and Information, which he said can be repurposed within the context of the master plan.
Additionally, Mr. Holness said it is proposed to improve the area’s road, sewerage and water infrastructure, among other key amenities being considered.
Meanwhile, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Fayval Williams, who also spoke at the meeting, urged residents and other stakeholders to buy into the vision of the Government Circle initiative.
“I want to give you the assurance that this Government, of which I am a member, will not leave anyone behind. We have an unwavering commitment to affordable housing, and I am encouraged by our laws that demand of us that we make people better off or, at the very least, not any worse than how we found them. So, I invite you to come on board; tell us what you think [will] make downtown Kingston a greater place,” Mrs. Williams said.
Source: JIS News