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© 2020, Urban Development Corporation

Parliament Building and Government Oval

The UDC’s role and public engagement

It should come as no surprise to most persons that the deliberations about building a new  parliamentary house for the Government of Jamaica predates the country’s Independence coming into being from the George VI Memorial Park Act of 1956.

The Urban Development Corporation, UDC, is the primary development agency for the Government of Jamaica and through its mandate to make development happen, engages approximately 900 Jamaicans in our present outfit. Our team comprises technical and administrative professionals inclusive of architects, engineers, spacial planners, geo-informatics technicians, quantity surveyors, attraction staff and managers, a truly multidisciplinary team.

Indeed, it is on the merit of these highly competent staff and their predecessors that iconic infrastructure features in our present-day towns have been built, upgraded and expanded, with inclusion of international expertise where warranted.

The UDC was mandated to build out the Government Zone and provide technical expertise, management of the design and the identification of funding.

Between 2008 and 2010, the UDC in consort with the Clerk of the House of Parliament, crafted a plan to develop a design competition to advance the process. The scope was for an Architectural competition of international designs with adjudicators to include representatives from the Jamaica Institute of Architects (JIA), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and caucus Members of Parliament as jurors.  An audit process would also have been included.           

The staging of the competition was contingent on several factors.  These included the Cabinet allocating funds for the competition and the receipt of a non-objection from the National Contracts Commission (NCC) to proceed to contract engagement for the winner and finally, the approval by Cabinet of a budget to build the Parliament House, based on the preceding.  In the end, there were two years of reviews and deliberations, but alas, the competition did not proceed as intended owing to the complexity of the modality being employed. Going forward however, the UDC will continue to engage ideas from Jamaican professionals through a different form of competition and ideation to be shared subsequently.

By way of note, several Jamaican architects have contributed to the design of the Parliament space in the National Heroes Circle.  Through the myriad of undertakings, the UDC has presided over the preparation of parliament building designs employing Jamaican Architects and Engineers.

In our present dispensation, the UDC has referenced the edict of 1956 and its three-fold concept to: 1) Commemorate the space as George VI Park, 2) Provide functional use of the park as a public space with shrines, monuments and gardens and 3) to house Jamaica’s Parliament.  Further, the present GOJ mandate to create a government zone allowing ministries and agencies of GOJ to be within the designated  zone surrounding the parliament significantly changes the scope of today’s project in context of what previous development had contemplated. The UDC is now working with the stakeholders to create solutions to the opportunities this new scope creates including creation of new green spaces, mixed use and increase plot density planning.

The UDC has over the years sought to engage with the public, and has been having consultations by way of an established Steering Committee, which includes representatives from the National Housing Trust (NHT), National Works Agency (NWA), Jamaica Public Service (JPS), National Land Agency (NLA), Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, among others.  

Most recently in April, we have had presentation and discussion with members of Jamaica’s professional institutions for their involvement within the context of the current project. In further planned consultations, we will share the details of prior work done, the terms of reference for their participation under the recently signed MOU between the Government of Jamaica and its agency the UDC, with China Construction America (South America Division) (CCASA), and how other Jamaican professionals can join the UDC in Phase 1 (concept development) of the project.

The UDC currently has no further funding allocated for phase 1 of the project beyond our annual budget and will, with the agreement of participating professionals work out appropriate recognition of their contribution to the process at the different stages of the development.  

Through the MoU with CCASA, the UDC’s technical capacity will be augmented as it carries out the role of project manager and technical advisor during the concept design phase. Thereafter, the programme packages and preliminary budget will be available for phase 2 which will involve procurement of contracts for detailed designs of the concepts developed. The GOJ’s procurement policy guidelines will be used to ensure full transparency and inclusion of competent local and international bidders to develop the detailed designs. Phase 3 of the project would involve the procurement of contract services under a public private partnership arrangement to carry out the building and financing of the various packages. The funding aspect of Phases 2 and 3 are currently being developed and will include but not limited to use of current GOJ building rentals, Jamaica Diaspora contribution, local crowd funding and other novel approaches.   

The project represents a watershed moment in Jamaican history of architecture and urban development. The designed and built space will reflect the Jamaican culture, values and identity in the monuments that will be created for generations to come. The UDC invites everyone to pledge their time, talent and treasure to work diligently so that through this project we can advance the welfare of our Jamaican people.

The foregoing is intended to provide some context to the development of the Jamaican Parliament Zone Project and the role of the UDC and every Jamaican in the process as we continue the development of our nation.

Damian Graham
General Manager
Urban Development Corporation

Dr Damian "Damo" Graham DBA, MPhil, P.E. is an experienced scholar-practitioner in Supply Chain and Global Operations, Manufacturing, Engineering and Construction. He is a registered Professional Industrial and Systems Engineer in Jamaica and other jurisdictions.