MoBay business operators get more commercial space
AFTER years of doing battle with the St James Parish Council, Fred Smith hopes to finally open his three-storey commercial building at 33 St James Street in Montego Bay by December 1.
For years, the council classified the building as an illegal construction and they had also raised concern about its lack of parking facilities.
But with those issues apparently firmly behind him, Smith recently removed the zinc fence from around the almost completed building. And since then he has been fielding enquiries about the space available.
“So far we have commitments for the use of four of the six two-level shops,” he told the Observer as he watched workmen adding some of the finishing touches to his building. “One shop is going to be used by a travel service, the second has to do with telephones, the third is a music store and the other is a pharmacy. The arrangement is that they will have three-year leases.”
All the spacious twin-level shops will have a spiral staircase between their first and second floors; and the 28-feet high third floor has been designed to accommodate a nightclub.
Smith bought the old run-down building, that used to house the Aquarius nightclub, in 1995 and he started rebuilding it a year later.
The building hit a snag at one point when the council asked him to re-submit the plans.
But according to him, his battles with the council had no effect on the length of time it took to complete the structure.
“(It took four years to complete) because of the cost of money, and the availability of money,” he said.
The nightclub and two other floors at the rear of the building are still available for leasing, but with its prime location in the heart of the western city, Smith should have no problem getting clients.
But those on the ground floor will have to do battle with the vendors who ply their wares along the streets of the city.
They used to display their merchandise along the zinc fence that surrounded the building, and now that the fence has been removed, they have simply hung their wares on rope stretched across two nails attached to the building.
But Smith made it clear that he would not engage in any battle to remove vendors from around his property, deeming the task the responsibility of local government authorities.
The parish council and police have, for years, made sporadic attempts to rid the streets of vendors but with very limited success. Smith’s building is just one of the many that informal merchants use to display their wares.
Meanwhile, the developer has his eyes on another project, a low-income housing development on 1,000 acres of land that he owns in Negril.
“I’ve been speaking with developers from Canada who have a special housing model they’d like to introduce in Jamaica,” he said. “The houses can be built in six weeks, and these are two-bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom houses. They think they could take them to the market for under $1m.”
He added that discussions are at an advanced level, and they are now awaiting the environmental impact study conducted at the site.
“Once that is up and running, we’ll know where to go,” he said.