Business

NHT loses acre of Twickenham Park land to Mandela roadworks

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 01, 2017

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The planned expansion of the Mandela Highway has caused the National Housing Trust (NHT) to forego almost one acre of its property in Twickenham Park, St Catherine.

In 2015, the NHT announced plans to start building more than 9,000 housing solutions across Jamaica, one of which was the development of 134 two-bedroom townhouses for Twickenham Park Phase 4 at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion.

But Senior General Manager at the NHT, Donald Moore, in a roundtable interview with the Jamaica Observer, said the proposed plan is now being modified to facilitate infrastructure development by the National Works Agency (NWA) along the highway.

“The NWA told us how it will impact us and we looked to see whether we would have to have a fight but there was no need; it's not significant. It's less than an acre I understand will be taken off and the number of townhouses will be reduced by roughly 14, so we will still have 120 units to develop.

“It will also impact the lands on which we have the branch office right now, so we are going to lose some parking space, as well,” Moore said.

Last July, the NWA signed a US$64-million contract with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to rehabilitate and widen the Mandela Highway in St Catherine. The deal will see the four-lane Mandela Highway upgraded to a six-lane carriageway to accommodate the high volume of traffic.

The new roadway will have three lanes in either direction, separated by a concrete barrier; with each lane having a width of 3.65 metres. According to reports, the first stage of the expansion will begin at Six Miles and continue in the vicinity of the Portmore turn-off, while the second stage will continue to the roundabout at Jose Marti Technical High School at Twickenham Park.

Sunday Finance understands that the NWA plans to remove the roundabout to facilitate the expanded highway in addition to other infrastructure development. Across from the Twickenham Park roundabout and adjoining the Unions Estate Housing development sits the open lot slated for the development of Twickenham Park phase 4.

NHT's 12.6-acre property, which was acquired from the Government of Jamaica, will also share boundaries with a tuition-free boarding school — Christel House — that will provide education, health care, meals and other assistance for impoverished children from the area. It is to be built by the non-profit organisation Christel House International.

Moore noted that while the Christel House and the Jose Marti Technical High School will sit next door to the new development, the close proximity of the properties should not be detrimental to homeowners.

“If it's the noise level people are worried about, school operates during the daytime and we hope that the children are in classes. You do have times when children play but that happens in the communities as well so the general laughter and chatter in the daytime shouldn't affect people,” he said.

UNIONS ESTATE RESIDENTS CONCERNED ABOUT FLOODING

However, interim president of the Unions Estate Hartnel Campbell has raised concerns about how the expanded roadways will affect pedestrians, as well as the impact of flood waters from the roadway into the community when it rains.

“We've had accidents right outside the community already, so we want to know how pedestrians will be accommodated. As for the flood waters, it's a terrible issue. When it rains the water coming into the community is so high that it affects our vehicles, so we want to know what the NWA is going to do about the problem and if the new community will be faced with this same situation,” Campbell said.

Moore, in responding to Campbell's concerns, said the NHT has had discussions ad nauseam with NWA to have the drainage issue addressed, but the NWA has constantly touted lack of funding as the reason for its inability to address the problem.

“I'm hoping that part of the funding for the fixing of the road is to also deal with the matter of drainage because there is a serious problem right now of the water coming across the highway and flowing into Unions Estates,” he said, adding that the Twickenham Park Phase 4 development will be built as a separate community from the Unions Estate Development and as such will have its own drainage system at the back of the community.

Still, he added that residents should also look at the bigger picture since the surrounding communities stand to benefit from proper road access and an easy commute to and from Kingston.

“That road has always been a challenge and so they are going to be fixing that problem,” he said.

NHT, in its plan to undertake at minimum 15,000 starts over a three-year period, says the Twickenham Park Phase 4 development is just the start of housing units proposed for St Catherine and Clarendon.

On Friday, the Trust handed over the Bourkesfield Meadows, St Catherine, and recently broke ground for the Mary's Field Housing Development. Colbeck Castle, Hellshire Phase 2, Monymusk Phase 2, Sevens Phase1 and Sheckles Phase 1 are developments now on the table for St Catherine and Clarendon.

“St Catherine happens to be one of the areas where the NHT has lands and where most of the construction will be taking place, in addition to Clarendon. The housing plan on a whole should not be significantly affected by the modification of Twickenham Park Phase 4,” Moore said.

The expected start of the Twickenham Park Phase 4 development has been rescheduled to facilitate modification of the design plan, but the Trust says it is working to meet the anticipated completion date of April 2019.

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