In nearly all countries, the land on the waterfront of major cities is the most valued and the most developed. It is the most highly priced real estate and the site of splendid buildings. Not so in Jamaica, and especially not in the city of Kingston.
This is surprising, since Kingston is situated on the seventh largest and one of the best natural harbours in the world and a potentially beautiful waterfront leading to a gently sloping plain against a backdrop of magnificent mountains. In addition, it is in a country with a salubrious climate where the city is flushed and refreshed by the caressing winds from the sea.
This valuable Kingston waterfront is, ironically, the site of an ancient prison structure; an asylum for the mentally challenged; several insanitary fishing beaches; a cement plant which, in the past, has been accused of polluting the city and its residential suburbs; derelict wharfs; the rusting remnants of the industrial belt; and countless squatter settlements in buildings no longer fit for human habitation.
The once gorgeous seawater of the harbour is unhealthy for swimming because of the constant dumping of sewage and garbage.
Plans for revitalising the Kingston waterfront are too numerous to mention, but implementation is a mirage which vanishes as soon as the ink on the latest plan is dried. The difficulties of correcting the misdevelopment of the Kingston waterfront are daunting because it involves demolition, relocation and new construction. But where there are undeveloped areas the problem only involves new construction. The strip of land known as Palisadoes is such a case.
In 1959, the People's National Party Government of National Hero Norman Manley crafted a plan for the development of the Palisadoes in five zones. The projected developments included Port Royal as a historic site, a hotel, a marina and recreation areas of various kinds. The only part of the plan that materialised was a public beach called Gunboat Beach, which no longer exists, and a new airport.
The 53-year-old plan should be updated now that the road is being raised and widened into a dual carriageway. The peninsula should become a national park beginning at Harbour View. Installations should include, with proper lighting, a cycle/jogging track as far as the airport, exercise areas, recreation facilities, restaurants, a marina and, at last, Port Royal as a heritage site.
The centrepiece should be a cruise ship port and craft market because it would be too expensive to establish and secure these facilities in Kingston.
The Government's role is to put in infrastructure and vet the private sector projects to be built on leased land. The development impact would be enormous for Kingston, indeed, transformative.
If we are truly seeking a major project to bequeath to Jamaicans for the next 50 years, development of Palisadoes is an idea whose time has finally come.