PRIME Minister Andrew Holness, lamenting the large number of derelict buildings and aged infrastructure in the country, has come out in full support of the plans for redevelopment and urban renewal currently underway in some parts of the island.
Speaking at a ground-breaking event for Pulse's $6-billion, 30-unit housing development and opening of its Lifestyle Village at Villa Ronai in St Andrew Wednesday, Holness lauded the current levels of development taking place in the real estate market, stressing the need for greater maintenance to prevent urban blight and to increase property value.
"A lot of our current infrastructure is aged and not well-maintained and the longer these stay, then greater will be what we call urban blight. There will also be greater levels of deterioration in our built environment which drives away lifestyle," he said.
"This process of constantly reinvesting in real estate, not just building new buildings but regenerating existing buildings, is a very important process. In our context this process has slowed down for the last 30 years, resulting in a case where many of our communities have reached the point of urban decay and are in need of serious funds for renewal," he added.
Working with international partners such as the World Bank and other private sector and civil society interests, the Government in recent times has refocused its attention to redeveloping several areas across the island, especially in downtown Kingston where redevelopment efforts have gathered pace.
Just recently PanJam, through the opening of its 168-room ROK Hotel facility, led a transformation of the former Oceana Hotel at the corner of King Street and Ocean Boulevard across from the world-renowned Kingston Harbour in the heart of the capital city. Aside from that, several other projects, including the installation of a boardwalk, resurfaced roads, refurbished structures, the erection of new buildings and the relocation of several businesses, including popular eateries/restaurants, have been adding to the growing number of activities driving patrons back to one of the island's major commercial districts.
"It is good that there is a new energy emerging where developers now want to come and invest and buy property," Holness further said, underscoring the need for the developments taking place to be done in a planned manner and in line with authorised building codes.
The prime minister stressed that with real estate having emerged as a significant driver of the recovery process, it was imperative for the slate of activities accompanying various projects to be undertaken with a guided and balanced approach whilst preserving and maintaining key fundamental rights.
"In developing these properties one has to ensure that they maintain the environmental and urban planning standards, as minister with responsibility for this area, this is an everyday challenge and we are constantly looking at it, and we have tightened up the regulations and supervision of projects. It's a delicate balance and our aim is not to kill off the real estate industry as this has been a key driver of our recovery and economic growth, but we are here to ensure that we have a rounded and comprehensive redevelopment of our built environment," Holness said.
Lauding the investments of private sector companies in the real estate market, Holness said these entities have been instrumental in assisting Government with its plan to deliver numerous development objectives. In congratulating Kingsley Cooper, chairman of Pulse Investments Limited, on the growth of the Pulse brand over decades, Holness said his hope was for the lifestyle development to further expand in becoming the "Milan of the Caribbean".
The 70-unit lifestyle village which is now operational consists of restaurants, function spaces, guest suites, shops, offices and residential apartments. Pulse is also now in the process of establishing a spa and wedding centre in short order. As for its Pulse Homes development, for which ground was broken, this is to see the buildout of a residential community comprising 30 one and two-bedroom, low-density, eco-friendly houses expected to be completed by 2024.