$1.3-b Closed Harbour Beach Park on track despite COVID-19

Observer West writer

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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Construction of the $1.3-billion Closed Harbour Beach Park development project in the resort city of Montego Bay is on track for completion by year end, despite the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time, other projects being undertaken by Government in the city, including the $5.7-billion 220-bed Western Children and Adolescents Hospital and the $500-million state-of-the-art Barnett Street Fire Station, are expected to miss their deadline.

“The good news is that it is still progressing based on our inspections, and so on, and our interaction with UDC [Urban Development Corporation] is that it is progressing, and we got an update up to last week for our project meeting,” Dr Carey Wallace, the executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), told the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week, when asked about the Closed Harbour Beach Park project.

“We are pleased with the progress despite COVID. We are still moving on with it. It is one of those projects that will provide employment and assist the [tourism] industry moving forward.”

Dr Wallace argued that with the expected rebound of the tourism sector, which has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, the hope is that the project will be completed by December.

“We are hoping that they will be able to stick to it [December completion date]. We do expect tourism to return and recover and when it does, we would already be on a path of continued improvement. There are many countries competing with us, so we have to be on a path of making Jamaica better and brighter and more diversified with our offerings every single year, as we move forward,” stated the executive director.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness broke ground for the project, which is being financed mainly by the TEF and executed by the State-run Urban Development Corporation (UDC), in February last year, but construction did not commence at the site until April.

The project forms part of the UDC's Montego Bay Redevelopment Programme, which will see the conversion of the 16-acre property, formerly called 'Dump Up Beach', transformed into the city's largest free, public access beach park that will provide much-needed green space for recreational activities.

On completion, the park will boast several sustainable elements, including renewable energy by way of solar lighting; maintenance of the underwater sills to protect the beach and serve as a habitat for corals and fish; LED lights in parking spaces, walkways, and a promenade, sensitive to the concerns of birds and turtles.

It will also feature a jogging trail, an outdoor amphitheatre, multipurpose courts, a children's play area and food kiosks.

UDC Communication Specialist Abigail Edwards told the Observer West there has been no work stoppage during the COVID-19 pandemic. She, however, stated that due to restrictions and regulations, the UDC had to put in place additional measures to maintain the security and well-being of workers, such as the use of masks, and the implementation of additional hand washing stations.

Just over a year ago, Mayor of Montego Bay Homer Davis told St James residents at a town hall meeting that the project is designed for the benefit of visitors and locals alike.

“That project is designed for the benefit of the people of Montego Bay and St James and those of our visiting friends who are coming from other sections of Jamaica, or those who are visiting from other countries, it is there for them to enjoy also,” said the mayor.

Last December, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told reporters that a promenade, which is to be created on Montego Bay's waterfront leading from the Cruise Ship Pier located in Freeport to Dead End located on Jimmy Cliff Boulevard, will complement the Closed Harbour Beach Development project.

The project, he noted, forms part of Government's aim to reimagine tourism experiences in the tourist resort.

The promenade, he said, which is expected to be the longest in the English-speaking Caribbean, will create an opportunity for Jamaicans.

“It is probably going to be the longest boardwalk, arguably in the English-speaking Caribbean, because it is going to take you all the way from the cruise port straight back to Dead End. And, this is going to be exciting for us and it is going to create a brand new opportunity for the people of Montego Bay and Jamaica, in general, to be able to benefit from these cultural assets that we have and the value of our pristine waters in the north-western area,” stated Bartlett then.

The project will also include the “tie in” of the Closed Harbour Beach Park development project with the Montego Bay Old Fort Craft Market.

Meanwhile, another related critical project being undertaken by UDC in Montego Bay, is the Waterfront Protection Infrastructure, aimed at protecting coastal and marine ecosystems; land-based coastal infrastructure, and tourism activities along the Montego Bay Waterfront from the vicinity of the Old Hospital Park to the Closed Harbour.

The project entails the repairs of the existing groynes and underwater sill structures that are critical to protect the beach areas from erosion and will ensure the sustainability of any future development.

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