DOUGLAS... we are running out of land and people need housing, sowe must go up and not out
KSAMC, NEPA give initial nod to proposed 20-storey housing development

A proposal for the first 20-storey residential building to be erected in Jamaica has received outline planning permission from the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA)

The massive building could be constructed at West King's House Road in St Andrew if the developer satisfies all the requirements of NEPA, the Town and Country Planning Authority, the KSAMC, and a number of other State agencies.

Councillor Kari Douglas (Jamaica Labour Party, Trafalgar Division), who is deputy chair of the KSAMC's Building and Town Planning Committee, told the Jamaica Observer that this unprecedented multi-family development, once in receipt of final confirmation for construction to take place, could influence how residential buildings are erected in Jamaica.

Douglas has endorsed the construction of future buildings vertically instead of horizontally, due to a lack of space in the city.

According to Douglas, outline planning permission was given after a private developer submitted a concept proposal for the development, which included only limited information on the project.

“For outline planning permission, you say this is what we would like to do and will you be likely to support it. We then would say to them that we would be likely to support it against this or that background, given planning guidelines and characteristics. You would then go and develop a detailed application and send it back to us for approval,” she said.

“After that, they are to go and prepare a plan with architectural drawings and the various site drawings, elevations, design for sewerage, the design for ingress and egress, and all the things that would combine to make up a complete planning application and they would send that back to us. Based on the nature of this application, it is going to set a precedent for others like this to come. Something like that doesn't currently exist in Kingston. It is a very good thing for the city in different ways,” asserted Douglas.

Despite her obvious optimism about what the proposed project could mean for the future of residential construction in Jamaica, Douglas cautioned that the development will not proceed without the relevant research and advising the public of its plans.

She recommended that details should include the characteristics that would influence how similar kinds of residential buildings are approved in future.

“Like what would influence us to give a developer 20 storeys as opposed to 15 and the type of conditions that must be met as it relates to water supply, sewage disposal, roads, and access.

“I also asked that we look at developing a policy in partnership with the Town and Country Planning Authority and NEPA to deal with the zoning of areas that we will be likely to consider for this type of high-density, high-rise buildings. This is West King's House Road and nothing like this at all exists there,” said Douglas, who is a licensed real estate dealer and valuation surveyor with training in land surveying.

“It is going to appear to be out of character once it is built, but we have to start somewhere. Land is finite, so we are prompting building vertically as opposed to a sprawl which we really can't facilitate. We are running out of land and people need housing. In order to provide for the future, we must go up and not out,” added Douglas.

She argued that the development will boost the capital city's economy by creating jobs, generating profits for suppliers of construction material and required services, and will bring prestige to the area while attracting other investors with similar vision.

“There may not be a lot of unimproved land in the municipality to facilitate this type of development, but as we move towards more vertical infrastructure, then what happens is that persons start to dispose of their traditionally single-family, single-storey dwellings or commercial buildings and developers and investors find the opportunities to demolish those buildings and redevelop them in this way,” Douglas said.

“As long as the NWC [National Water Commission] can say, 'Yes, we are able to provide the water,' and once National Works Agency gives approval and it is within the standards of the Ministry of Health, and as long as the Civil Aviation Authority gives the nod, this seems to be what could become a trend,” declared Douglas.

She added that the proposed project would comprise of some 89 housing units with supporting facilities such as swimming pool, jogging trail, basketball court, spa, gym, and possibly commercial spaces.

According to Douglas, this type of construction creates less open spaces for the State to monitor and could be the answer to the housing problem in the city.

“Frequently you see these lots around the place and they become rodent-infested and homeless persons try to take over and then the State has to spend money on monitoring. There is always a lot of demand and very little supply, which is what forces some people out of the city,” added Douglas.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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