GraceKennedy to build US$30-million commercial centre

— in downtown Kingston


Friday, January 17, 2014

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LOCAL conglomerate GraceKennedy is to build a state-of-the-art commercial centre in downtown Kingston which will accommodate offices, a gym and retail enterprises.

This new centre will reside on a 48,000-square foot plot of land acquired from the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).

Construction is expected to take place within 18 months of the completion of the land purchase and is subject to GraceKennedy meeting all the necessary regulatory requirements. This project is expected to come in at a cost of around US$30 million.

Speaking with Caribbean Business Report yesterday, CEO of Grace Kennedy, Don Wehby, said: "In furtherance of our commitment to the re-development of downtown Kingston, our plan is for the building of a modern commercial centre with approximately 400 high-rise parking spaces, offices and retail spaces.

"As such we are purchasing Lot 21, Kingston Waterfront from the UDC. This is located between the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) and 64 Harbour Street.

"It is our intention that the project will be a GraceKennedy-led and sponsored development. Our plan is to establish a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which we propose to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange in due course, following completion of the project."

Founded in Jamaica in 1922 as a small trading establishment and wharf operators, GraceKennedy has grown to become
one of the Caribbean's leading conglomerates with 60 subsidiaries with operations in food manufacturing and distribution and financial services such as banking, insurance and remittances. For the nine months ended September 30, 2013 Grace achieved revenues of J$49.74 billion, producing a net profit of J$2.28 billion. Revenues rose by eight per cent while net profit increased by 13.3 per cent over the corresponding period in 2012.

GraceKennedy has always been headquartered on 73 Harbour Street, in the centre of downtown Kingston where it has remained a major force of commercial activity.

In more recent times downtown Kingston has been earmarked to enjoy a renaissance. Last year, mobile telephone company Digicel officially opened its 211,500-square foot headquarters in downtown Kingston, which came in at a cost of around US$65 million. It contains 15 square feet of solar panelling. Digicel also committed to refurbishing Coronation Market. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also be relocated in downtown Kingston and the old Oceana Hotel has been sold by the UDC. Now GraceKennedy has signalled its intent to play its part to once again transform downtown Kingston into a vibrant commercial hub.

A Private Sector of Jamaica (PSOJ) Working Group is working on a masterplan for the revitalising of downtown Kingston and would like to see the return of cruise shipping to the area.

Wehby added that the chairman of the UDC, KD Knight, worked assiduously with GraceKennedy to get this deal done and the UDC boss's professionalism and speed of execution has to be commended. Going forward the idea now is to utilise a Real Estate Investment Trust as a vehicle to do further developments in downtown Kingston.

"Our company's interest in acquiring this property is consistent with our commitment to the redevelopment of downtown Kingston demonstrated by our decision to maintain our head office on Harbour Street since our founding in 1922.

In 1996 we continued our investment in downtown under the Urban Renewal Act and in support of the objectives of the Act,
which promotes downtown Kingston redevelopment.

"More recently, we have moved our financial services divisional head offices to Harbour Street and also opened a new financial centre at the corner of Duke and Harbour Streets to house branches of our banking, investments and insurance subsidiaries -- First Global Bank Ltd, First Global Financial Services Ltd and Jamaica International Insurance Company Limited," said Wehby.

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