National Affairs: The "Downtown Development" bandwagon gathers speed
There is a big push to transform Duke Street in Kingston to a financial and legal business district, a project coordinated by Blossom O’Meally-Nelson.
Private sector interests have come together to execute a six-point plan to improve the corridor between Harbour Street to the South and East Queen Street to the North and bordered by Mark Lane to the West and Johns Lane to the East.
“We are all agreed that Duke Street is a street of historical significance and this move is a bid to establish it as the new Duke Street financial and legal business district. We want to revitalise it in such a way that it will be attractive to investors and new businesses,” O’Meally-Nelson said as she made a pitch to members of the legal fraternity during cocktails on Wednesday.
She said the project team will be using a six-point approach to achieve their objective. The project calls for the paving of the sidewalks, improved street lighting, street beautification, the highlighting the historical significance of some buildings, improved security and community participation.
Nine entities have already signed on to the project — 1834 Investments, BCIC, Caribbean Property Management, DunnCox, Jamaica National, National Commercial Bank, Port Authority of Jamaica, National Insurance Fund and VMBS. Their initial contribution of US$18, 000 each will go towards defraying costs for work that is under way, O’Meally-Nelson said.
Already, the grey concrete pavement is being replaced with cobble stone paving. Dayton Wood, general manager of the Kingston Restoration Company, the project implementers, says the paving is 40 per cent complete.
“We have another 10,400 square feet running from Port Royal Street up to East Queen Street which we will be stating to do any time now. We’ve already covered the Eastern side of Duke Street up to Laws Street,” Wood said in an update at the function held at DunnCox’ offices.
Under the transformation plans, building owners along Duke Street will be encouraged to put lights on their buildings to light up the district. This will be in addition to new smart street lights to be put in by the Jamaica Public Service company. Vendors will have specially designed carts that blend with the aesthetics. And storyboards will be placed on the side of historically significant buildings as a prelude to making Duke Street a walking museum.
O’Meally-Nelson also highlighted the prospect of having statues erected on the sidewalk, sculpture displays and friezes as part of the living, walking museum concept. Friezes are mounted strips meant to create the impression of a sculpted image.
“We want to create an attractive, welcoming and interesting environment by reference to the historical background of many of the buildings on the street,” O’Meally-Nelson said.
She reported that seven ‘courtesy corps’ workers have been deployed to assist with the roll-out of the experiential side of the development. In addition, there are two sanitation workers dedicated to the task of keeping that section of Duke Street garbage-free.
The pay bill is about $550,000 per month, the project coordinator said. This is expected to go up to about $700,000 when the project is fully rolled out. Project participants will be asked to contribute US$600 each monthly to assist with the sustainability of the project, she said.