Fri | Oct 7, 2022

Some ideas to transform downtown Kingston

Published:Saturday | February 22, 2020 | 12:07 AM


Downtown Kingston, especially King Street and Harbour Street, was in the past almost First World in shopping, restaurants and hotels, but, over the years, it has fallen into decay despite efforts and ideas of resuscitation.

In shopping, there were the Issa’s, Nathan’s, John Dors, Hanna’s, El Corte Inglés, Hill’s Galleries, etc., restaurants Cathay, Rodney Arms, Paul’s 104 , The Barrel, etc., hotels Myrtle Bank and, later, Oceana, which is understood to be once more be restored as a hotel. There were also upscale bawdy houses in Rae Town.

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) proposes to bring back Kingston as a cruise ship destination, but this will be a fiasco if improvement is not made in law and order, shopping, cleanliness, events planning and attractions.

The UDC should form a think tank of architects to look at these ideas. Gordon House should be transferred to the former Century National Bank building adjoining the Jamaica Conference Centre, the old J. Wray and Nephew building demolished for car parking, and the area known as Parliament Square.

The National Gallery of Jamaica should be transferred to Gordon House. The structure of the Ward Theatre should be extracted and transferred to the former site of the Garrison Theatre at Up Park Camp, in the radius of the theatre district.

The vacant area left by the Ward Theatre should become Simón Bolívar Square. In this modern age, the prison on Tower Street and the remand centre at South Camp Road are misfits on prime urban land. A suggestion is a location to a rural area where inmates can be productive in farming and agriculture.

The Tower Street prison should be considered for craft and free port shopping, offshore investment banking, and, more important, retain the rustic structure.

There is a number of vacant buildings that are wasting assets , such as the JPS Gold Street power station, Kingston Ice Making, the Machado Complex, and The Palace Theatre.

These buildings may be considered for urban hydroponic agriculture by sinking wells for water supply for the purpose of producing vegetables and cut flowers for export. An alternative, convert them into call centres.

The Victoria Craft Market area should be considered for the cruise shipping pier with a boardwalk along the seafront extending to Duke Street.

An annual Kingston events calendar should be prepared, in collaboration with all the arts and sports bodies, to be marketed for tourism, that is, the annual secondary schools athletic championship, in group packages to foreign colleges and universities.

With no disrespect to local culture, we should have a season for imported international stage productions at the Ward like The Phantom of the Opera.

An international art festival should also be considered, similar to the Spoleto Festival held in South Carolina, USA. Hoping that something can come out of these crazy ideas.

Winston Tai