Just what goes into the making of a city?Saturday, October 22, 2016
BY JAVENE SKYERS Staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Kingston became a city by virtue of historical and business importance, and Montego Bay gained city status through that of advocacy. However, the creation and development of Jamaica’s third city has been tasked to the Urban Development Corporation, which is expected to lead the charge in this regard.
In mid-July of this year Prime Minister Andrew Holness mandated the newly installed board of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to make the creation of Jamaica’s third city a priority and part of its three core goals.
The corporation has since formed a planning committee and has started the initial research for the project. However, before the corporation can go ahead and select a particular parish or town, there are numerous criteria and requirements that must be met before a city status is conferred.
"There are different levels of cities (but) in Jamaica we have just two, so Kingston would be what you consider the primate city and then Montego Bay is considered in the ‘other’, which means Kingston stands in and of itself and will not change its dominance because the seat of Government is there and the higher level order of services are there," Senior Urban Planner at the UDC Shyrill McIntosh-Wilson told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
McIntosh-Wilson, who is also the lead planner for the project, added that there can be outlying cities that provide other services and functions serving day-to-day secondary-level services. However, she stressed that the primate city will always have its function but it is not impossible, once the need arises, to create another city based on what a country’s vision and objectives are.
WHAT IS A CITY?
"Basically in doing the research, there is no real definition of a city whether in the Jamaican terms or even in the European or international terms. However, the city is relatively a large densely populated area with higher level services required to meet the varying needs of its occupants and the area on a whole," Deputy General Manager of Planning Development and Project Management at UDC Lorna Perkins told the Sunday Observer.
She explained that in terms of the Jamaican situation, there is what is referred to as the settlement hierarchy, which is set in the national settlement strategy of 1978 to 1998. Perkins stated that this strategy document sets out three categories of urban centres, which are based on the size of the population and level of services available in each area.
Perkins explained that according to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, an urban area is one that has over 2,000 people and provides a number of amenities, that in the island indicates modern living.
"And this information we can obtain from the Jamaica census … and therefore each settlement or centre has an urban hierarchy who would be classified in terms of economic base, retail function, access to major infrastructure, access to tertiary services, social amenities, recreational facilities, administration facilities and has a regional influence and is densely populated," Perkins said.
She added that what is also important is that these centres need to ensure that there is a diverse economic base that will minimise the dependency on one sector and provide a wide range of employment opportunities.
MAKINGS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF A CITY
"For it to become the city, it has to go through a series of consultations, and then the Cabinet will indicate that, after a stakeholder consultation, that this particular area will become a city. I think it becomes a Green Paper but further down in discussions a White Paper, after a while it becomes enacted in law that this particular area is a city," Perkins said of the legal process.
The deputy general manager also stated that critical to the process of identifying an area would be those areas that are experiencing a high rate of migration and spatial growth, initiatives by the Government such as Government policy, investment and other major infrastructure development.
"These areas normally have some of your highest level services. If we take Kingston for example, we’ll find that Kingston is the seat of Government, most ministries are headquartered here, the embassies are headquartered here, we have the highest level of infrastructure and services in terms of water sewage services, the same for water, bus services, public transit service, botanical gardens, parks and other recreational facilities," Chief Planner Ronald Brown stated.
"It is also true for its economic base industry, as most ports of industry are also located here. In terms of population, it is small compared to others. For Kingston we have a population of over 500,000 and for Montego Bay, it’s not in that region but it’s larger than other parishes and urban centres",,Brown said.
Brown explained that this was the first time the UDC will be directly involved in the creation of a city as in the case of Montego Bay, city status was conferred through advocacy by its residents.
"The people of Montego Bay advocated based on its importance first as a tourism mecca, to have its own level or some higher level of autonomy, so the UDC was not a part of that. In the case of Kingston, we (UDC) came into existence 1968 and Kingston was founded way before that, so by its origins, being the main city/town at the time and having all the high-level services, it naturally became the city/ lead town of Jamaica back then," the chief planner explained.
Despite not being instrumental in the establishment of Kingston and Montego Bay, McIntosh-Wilson pointed out that the UDC has been ensuring the organisation is involved in the development of both cities.
"Well, primarily the UDC acts within areas that it has land, that may be designated area as in the case of Montego Bay and we also have lands in Kingston, especially on the waterfront; that is our UDC designated areas, so for those zones we prepare plans of development that we work with the local stakeholders," said McIntosh-Wilson.
As it relates to prospective options for the new city, the UDC representatives remain tight-lipped, only conceding that research has begun. When asked if Portmore, which is informally regarded by many as Jamaica’s ‘third city’, was one of the prospective areas, Perkins indicated that it may be one of the areas that would be considered a candidate.
"It (Portmore) is characterised as a city, but a city needs certain services such as a hospital and so on. It can be developed into a city and naturally therefore would be one of the considered areas. However, that leaves us to say that we are not only looking at Portmore," Perkins told the Sunday Observer.
"We are looking at other potential areas, but it would be foolhardy at this time to mention these areas because we do have to have these consultation processes and to actually do the research and link with the other agencies to see what they do have in mind," she continued.
REVOCATION OF A CITY’S STATUS
According to Brown, a city may stop performing as it ought to, which can result in a gradual decline in its importance as a city.
"We see examples elsewhere, we’ve heard of the decline of Detroit and other areas which are driven by its economic base. If you have that failure of its economic base, you have migration out of town naturally and once you have that decline in the population, you also see a decline in its services," Brown stated.
He stressed that he doesn’t know if a city’s status can be revoked, but it is important to be mindful that certain critical functions are needed to keep a city performing optimally, such as continued economic activity and continued provision of services at the tertiary level.
McIntosh-Wilson also reiterated Brown’s point, stating that a city can lose its dominance and what an administration may choose to do is to create a new city with a new engine of growth or new base.
"Depending on the vision, the basis upon which a city is built can be completely different. Look at Dubai… some persons probably thought it would never happen; that it wouldn’t have the ability to survive but it can be created depending on what the vision is and what the drive is to create that city, it’s to really identify the basis for that then we build around it," McIntosh-Wilson stated.
Brown explained that Jamaica is at the stage where the island is now seeking to diversify its economy as best as possible and diversification is required to sustain any city so that if one sector fails, "the entire city doesn’t fail".
"There are certain driving forces we are looking at, the logistics hub initiative that we hope will bring new activities into Jamaica and at the same time we also have to look at the issue of the innovative city, that’s a city that continues to add and bring new ideas into that space. So those are some of the things we require to sustain development of our cities, maintain a Kingston and maintain a Montego Bay and looking at this new city we have been mandated to build," Brown stated.
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