Villa Juanita fulfils a dream

By Everard Owen Observer writer

Sunday, January 17, 2016

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A 19-room property has been added to Portland’s tourism stock after native Raymond Lewis invested some $250 million to construct the property in honour of his late mother.

Villa Juanita sits on a hill overlooking the Caribbean sea near the border of Portland and St Thomas.

Lewis said he acquired the property 23 years ago from his parents and made a commitment to his mother that he would someday build on the land.

"I had no idea what it would be and here it is now, Villa Juanita, as I named it after her in memory of her.

Lewis, a past student of Titchfield High School, said the concept is to establish a home away from home in a community tourism environment.

" This is going to be a success through partnership — partnership with the local community, partnership with other local businesses and individuals, partnership with the police, our security forces, partnership with the government — and it gives me great confidence to know that I am doing this in the safest parish in Jamaica, Portland," he said.

He noted that the guest experience will be a great one, with the local bars, cook shops, restaurant, crafts and entertainment places all expected to benefit.

Custos Rotulorum of Portland Major Lincoln Thaxter, in addressing the official opening ceremony, said this is "a historic occasion in which an idea that has been festering for quite some time in the mind of Raymond Lewis, who had informed me that he made a promise to erect this villa as a promise that he made to his mother to build on this property."

Thaxter, who is also Lewis’s schoolmate, said this is a tremendous demonstration of faith by the Lewis family. "It takes a special visionary in these times to commit financial and human resources when there are so many naysayers who feel that all things are falling apart," he said.

He noted that the property will further bolster heritage and cultural tourism in the parish, given the integration of activities from community groups like the Manchioneal Cultural Group.

Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield said the property is a welcomed addition to the room stock in that parish.

" You have put in an amazing amount of work and have created a vast number of jobs and job opportunities for the locals who are here, and that is a major contributor to the economy of this area," he said.

He noted that many in the creative industry, hospitality, transportation and food will all benefit.

"The eco-tourism will be enhanced in this area also, as there is a trail at Kensington which we spoke to the prime minister about that leads to the Rio Grande Valley that needs to be opened up and become a source of income. You have just positioned us with a master stroke showing us that this part of Portland can be part of our tourism product," he said.

The building is retrofitted for the physically challenged.



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