From police to Parliament — upping the ante in downtown Kingston

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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It is not difficult to envision what the emerging downtown Kingston, the English-speaking Caribbean's largest commercial district, will look and feel like in a few years after all the ongoing and proposed construction projects come to fruition.

The latest announcement of the creation of a multi-faceted police headquarters on 40 acres of land known as No Man's Land, an enduring symbol of a dark past in the sprawling slums of Kingston's west end, is especially joyful.

As we understand it — and we stand to be corrected — “No Man's Land” is that small slip of territory surrounded by the communities that were perpetually engulfed in political warfare in the 1970s. They include Trench Town, Wilton Gardens (Rema), Arnett Gardens (Concrete Jungle) and Denham Town, near to Tivoli Gardens.

In the throes of that bitter tribal war pitting supporters of the two major political parties against each other, no man dared cross from one territory to the other, or they did so on pain of death.

It is sheer poetic justice that the new police headquarters should rise out of the ruins of that unholy past where crime ruled supreme and the blood of those hapless political 'martyrs' stained the land.

That game-changing edifice is to join what some are already calling the most significant structure to be built in the history of Jamaica — the new Houses of Parliament building on grounds at National Heroes' Park in downtown Kingston.

The facility, on which construction is to commence in 2021, will provide ultra-modern working space for the legislature at long last, ignoring the famous 'againsters' who caused the Government to waste precious funds renovating Gordon House at Duke Street.

The Design Collective Team concept features an interconnected building with space to accommodate a football field and an area for outdoor movie viewing. The new structure forms part of the National Heroes' Park Redevelopment and Government Campus Project, which is a component of a master plan to redevelop downtown Kingston.

When visualised in the broad context of other projects underway, the police headquarters and the Parliament buildings will make downtown Kingston what it truly should have been, but for the thirst for power which transformed it from its former glory to a picture of abandoned gutted buildings teeming with criminals and the homeless.

These projects include the soaring Digicel building, the Foreign Affairs Ministry building, the Grace Kennedy expansion and the excitement of developments on the Kingston waterfront, to name a few.

The police headquarters, in particular, will have a seminal effect of crime in the area, making it possible for larger numbers of people, including our nationals abroad and tourists to feel safe to visit, wander through the streets, to shop and be entertained.

Downtown Kingston is ripe for investment projects that Jamaicans could benefit from. There are several splendid ideas which were, regrettably, ahead of their time and still languishing on dusty shelves from the days of the Kingston Restoration Committee.

Let the new downtown Kingston arise. Let the new Jamaica come forth. It's about time.

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