The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has handed over the management and operations of the Simόn Bolívar Cultural Centre (SBCC), downtown Kingston to the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ). The keys were handed over on Thursday, April 2, 2015 by Senator K.D Knight, UDC chairman and were received by Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, IOJ chairman.
According to Senator K.D Knight, “the handing over of the Cultural Centre represents another signal development for the Corporation especially in the downtown Kingston area coming on the heels of a successful divestment campaign resulting in the J$1.3 billion sale of a number of key properties and lease arrangements since 2012”.
Ann Marie Bonner, Executive Director, said “I am delighted to accept on behalf of the Institute of Jamaica this building which demonstrates international and local collaboration and cooperation. The Institute is ready to provide interesting programmes for sharing Latin American and Caribbean cultures.”
In his remarks, Desmond Malcolm, UDC General Manager noted, “the UDC has made development happen in nearly every sector of society since 1968 and so as we celebrate our 47th anniversary, we take great pleasure in handing over this cultural gift made possible through the kindness of the Venezuelan people. The UDC is committed to redeveloping downtown Kingston and improving the aesthetics of the city and we encourage the users of this facility to ensure they take care of it as we preserve the legacy for generations to come”.
The UDC-constructed Simόn Bolívar Cultural Centre (SBCC) is the 2014 recipient of the Jamaican Institute of Architects’ Award for Excellence in Remodelling/Refurbishing.
The Centre evolved from the request of the Venezuelan Government to the Jamaica Government in 2002 to establish a facility in downtown Kingston to commemorate Venezuelan liberator Simόn Bolívar’s link to Jamaica. Venezuelan National Hero, Simόn Jose Antonio de la Santisma – Simόn Bolívar – resided in Jamaica in 1815 at 33 Princess Street in downtown Kingston. It was from here that he penned what is reputed to be his greatest written work, the “Jamaica Letter”.
The Letter, it is believed, was Bolivar’s views on the independence movement in Venezuela and the form of government, which he deemed to be right for that country and, was in part his response to an invitation by the then English Governor of Jamaica to expound on the matter.
Based on the request of the Jamaican Government, the UDC acted as project managers by preparing architectural drawings; obtaining the necessary approvals drawings; and overseeing the construction of the Centre. The construction of the Centre is part of the UDC’s plan for the redevelopment of downtown Kingston which aims to reposition the city as a cultural hub.
The cultural centre in honour of Simόn Bolívar has been constructed at North Parade and Church Street in historic Parade, not far from Bolivar’s Princess Street address.
The centre comprises the Simόn Bolívar Exhibit Hall where the Jamaica Letter will be exhibited; an interpretation room; a library; three multipurpose rooms, and administrative offices. Programmes will include Latin music and dance, Spanish training, and seminars and demonstrations on Venezuelan and other Latin American cultures. It is envisioned that the Centre will be fully operational and officially opened by the end of 2015.
The UDC which has responsibility for spearheading the redevelopment of downtown Kingston recently divested properties including Machado Complex (J$104 million), Jamintel Building (J$150 million), Oceana Hotel (J$385 million), Lot 21, (J$75 million), all in Downtown Kingston. Lease agreements were also signed for the Ideal Warehouse and Victoria Pier both in downtown Kingston.
Deals were also brokered for the sale of the Forum Hotel (J$350 million), St. Catherine and Mahogany Inn (J$240 million), Negril.
Currently, plans are in train to construct a Food Bazaar area as part of the Festival Marketplace Project encompassing the lands on which the Kingston Craft Market stands.