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Invested in reimagining Kingston

Stephen
Facey

Monday, January 01, 2018

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As Kingston celebrates its 145th anniversary as the capital of Jamaica, Stephen Facey, chairman and CEO of PanJam Investment Limited, reflects on the historical development of the city, and examines the way forward to becoming The Pearl of the Caribbean. Facey delivered portions of these remarks at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Imagine Kingston: A Conference on the Regeneration of a City on Friday, November 10, 2017. The conference was jointly held by The University of the West Indies Department of Government, Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Institute of Jamaica's Jamaica Music Museum in partnership with PanJam.

As a company that has always been invested in Jamaica and, in particular, the capital city of Kingston, PanJam Investment Limited was pleased to be a part of the Imagine Kingston Conference.

Long before PanJam, my family, the Faceys, have had a long association of imagining Kingston.

My great grandfather was born in west Kingston and was a surveyor. My grandfather, C B Facey, founded and built a significant trading enterprise on Orange Street downtown. He grew a formidable business while instilling a love for city in my father, Maurice William Facey.

My father then sold his father's business to realise his vision for modern Kingston — big lots and big buildings.

PanJam imagined for itself what Kingston could be. We were among the first companies to register on the Kingston Stock Exchange in 1965.

As a private investor, we were at the forefront of the development of the urban landscapes. Imagine how audacious the Air Jamaica building was in 1965! How grand the 97,000-square-foot Scotiabank building was in 1975, especially within the volatile political climate of the 1970s.

The shift

We are here to imagine, but we must also reflect.

My father grew up near downtown's thriving port waterfront. He saw pallets and crates turn to containerised cargo. Downtown Kingston was bursting at the seams.

Then the economic heart of Kingston was moved to the west — Newport West — essentially ripping the sustenance from downtown.

In the 1960s, the contemporary thinking was urban development — suburbanisation; the relocation and/or abandonment of the old city.

He saw the businesses, which used to flourish from the port, pulling their shutters; some of which are still padlocked. The exodus of government and public service providers were moved out of the city.

He was a part of the development of New Kingston, but he continued to envision the value of downtown. He was instrumental in the formation of the Kingston Restoration Company (KRC) in 1983 after witnessing the social and economic decline of the city.

From 1983-85 KRC undertook research on the restoration costs for the buildings along the Harbour Street corridor.

The KRC's goals for downtown included infrastructure redevelopment; economic opportunities for employment; and, of course, social intervention.

The restoration of many of the buildings downtown was because of the KRC, including the majestic one which now houses the Jamaica Stock Exchange at 40 Harbour Street.

So, some 20 years later, we are now bringing to fruition the KRC vision for Kingston — urban regeneration.

Building on a vision

Businesses and individuals are now moving back into downtown.

We must realise that the city has all the resources and attributes to be great — the natural environment, the culture, and the people. All the ingredients to bake the cake, but we need an approved recipe and a visionary chef.

PanJam has never left downtown for 50-plus years and we have further massive investments planned for the former Oceana Hotel. The project will see PanJam and our investors transforming it into a mixed-use facility with hotel, residential and commercial spaces. The development will not only be good for our investors, it will also continually drive development. Jobs will be created during the construction and new residents will move in; once again breathing life into the area. This is just one part of the regeneration of Kingston, but the regeneration or reimagining must be clear.

We need a dynamic economic and physical master plan for the city. A plan providing a template for the future of our city for the future 30 to 50 years. A plan that enhances and takes advantage of the natural environment and the culture of the hard-working people.

To make Kingston a place we would choose to live work, play, raise families, and do business we need an active Town Planning Department that is given the respect and authority it deserves. One that is forward-thinking with a vision for the city. And this vision must include public input; consensus, instead of reactionary planning.

Given our trajectory, how big is Jamaica going to be? How many people do we have to plan for in Kingston? Where are they going to live and work? Where will their children attend school? How are they going to get across the city? This is the importance of a town planner. Dare I even say, a national planner?

Reimagining Kingston

We want to congratulate the organisers of this conference. They have given us the scope to look beyond the hardscape of a city; beyond the blocks, sewer lines, multi-laned roadways, fibre optic connections, and parking. The Imagine Kingston conference allows us to look at the culture that makes the city special.

I want to also congratulate the team, which included Dr Stanley Niaah, who made the strong, convincing case for Kingston to be designated a UNESCO Creative City for Music in 2015. Of course, music thrives in Kingston, yet this conference also gives the platform to discuss the role of art in the city's regeneration. We must imagine Kingston with thriving galleries and museums and grass-root tours and experiences for business travellers. Kingston may not have pristine seascapes and white sands, but it has grand sculptures, vivid murals, and other-worldly architecture.

As Kingston celebrates its 145th anniversary we must come to grips. Great cities don't happen by accident; they are created.

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