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UDC’s Letter of Response to Architect Clifton Yap

 May 8, 2018 
Architect Clifton Yap, C.D. F.J.I.A, R.A. 
College of Fellows 
Jamaican Institute of Architects 
Dear Architect Yap, 

I write in response to your letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, dated Tuesday April 24, 2018 regarding the proposed plans for the National Heroes Park.  

First, let me thank you for taking the time to outline your concerns. As you know, the UDC, as an Agency of the Government of Jamaica, encourages citizens to offer advice and suggestions, because our ultimate goal is to ensure that Jamaica can grow and develop into being the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. 

In fact, at the heart of it, these are the pillars that the Heroes Park project aims to capture, which you will agree, is a fundamental step in advancing Jamaica’s future. And so, the UDC is committed to ensuring that this project not only meets the needs of all stakeholders, but that it puts the people of Jamaica and their best interests at the heart of it. 

That said, we note the concerns outlined in your letter, albeit which also contains some 
inaccuracies, and all of which I will seek to address below: 

–  With respect to specific details of the Master plan, I must remind you that, we have to date developed the concept Master plan, in order to provide guidance to the Government. Having now established a framework for discussion, the UDC is in the process of conducting feasibility studies and engaging in public consultations to further refine the set of plans prior to execution. 
–  With respect to your reference to the Concept Master Plan and proposed demolition of existing buildings around the Oval, the brief to the UDC by the Prime Minister for the development of the National Heroes Park, does not include loss of use.  On the contrary, the mandate is to redevelop and upgrade housing stock, commercial and recreational space.  

–  We appreciate your frustration that things may not be progressing as rapidly as anticipated, however the UDC is working through the standard development process to understand the social impact, the environmental, infrastructural and business case required to validate the master plan. As part of a broader national educational campaign to engage with Jamaicans on this most transformational infrastructural 
initiative since Independence, the UDC has already engaged the Social Development Commission (SDC) to undertake a social impact study to include town hall meetings, focus groups, business and municipal interests, house-to-house surveys etc., within the designated zones. 

–  From your own dialogue and communication exchanges with the UDC, including a meeting held as recently as Tuesday, May 1, 2018, you would note that plans are well underway to launch the competition for the design and ultimate construction of the Parliament Building in Heroes Circle.  While this initiative, symbolically, is a major step towards the continued development of Downtown, it must be noted that the 
Parliament Building Design project is separate and apart from the overall plans surrounding the proposed Government Oval Zone. 

     o As you know, the competition – which is a procurement tool – will engage Jamaican architects living here and, in the diaspora, and will not only give them an opportunity to put their skills and talents on display              for all Jamaica to see, but importantly, the winner will play a significant role in writing a piece of Jamaica’s history. 
     o The construction phase of this initiative will be put to local tender, affording local companies an opportunity to provide construction, engineering and supply of materials.   
     o Further, a development project of this magnitude will no doubt generate direct and in-direct employment for the local community.  We are in the process of finalizing the details of the project, but we can expect            upwards of 5,000 new jobs to be created. 

–  Your comment regarding lack of public spaces and access for Jamaicans because of this project is not correct. Your analysis to the King George VI Memorial Park 1956 Act was incomplete as the Act also stipulates that up to 11.4 acres may be designated for the Parliament building.  In fact, the concept master plan outlines that the majority of the space, in the proposed development of Heroes Park, will be designated for public 
access. This includes access to the monument sites, the public museum and recreational spaces. Further, the competition brief, which was developed by JIA member Architects licenced under the Architects Registration Act (2006) and which is being reviewed by the jurors and the bi-partisan Parliamentary oversight committee, has mandated the inclusion of  iconic public green space as a public garden, pleasure park and recreation area within the designs. Note as well, that the newly developed iconic park will ensure open access to Jamaicans as well as visitors who will be able to learn more about and engage with our heritage, history and culture.  

–  In addition, the Master plan for the Government Oval zone includes plans for over 23 acres of active recreation and green space, designated for public use, within the local communities.  These will include, amongst other amenities, football, basketball, playgrounds, etc. 

Mr. Yap, as you can see, the world is changing. Modernization is transforming everything we do globally and, for Jamaica to compete effectively, we have to be willing to make the decisions and changes to push us along a path to a brighter, better future.  

The teams, consisting of the UDC Board, competition steering committee, the competition patron, the jurors and UDC Architects, are all aligned and ready to make this initiative a success. In this regard, we welcome continued dialogue with you and the representation of the JIA as part of the jury panel to inform the deliberations in the best interest of what’s good for Jamaica.

In the interest of transparency, please be advised that this reply to your letter will be published in the media. 
Sincerely yours, 
Senator Ransford Braham 
Chairman, UDC