Victoria Pier's new voyage

Victoria Pier's new voyage

Observer writer

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

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Downtown Kingston thrived as a musical hotspot in the late 1950s. With the birth of ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall, budding stars flocked studios in the area, planting seeds that blossomed into outstanding careers.

But with political tribalism surging, downtown Kingston became a hotbed for crime and violence, causing many businesses and investors to flee.

Businessman Andrew Azar is hoping to change that with the opening of Victoria Pier, a renovated, multimillion-dollar establishment. Victoria Pier which is set to be officially launch next month, houses eight popular brands — including Gloria's Seafood City, Devon House I Scream, Ribbiz Ultra Lounge, Island Coffee, and the Ocean's 7 Skybar located on its roof. The last is home to a live series, dubbed Sunset on The Pier, which debuted on Sunday with dub poet Mutabaruka.

“We're trying to use Ocean's 7 Skybar for events and to revitalise live music downtown and get back that social vibe,” Azar told the Jamaica Observer. “Muta and I met up and he fell in love with the place. He used to walk downtown and said not a dog was here. He couldn't believe the lines for Gloria's; he was wondering where he was. It is a great partnership,” he continued.

The next show is set for September 16 with an act to be confirmed.

Also adding to Victoria Pier's entertainment package is Loose Cannon Tours.

“On a Saturday and Sunday they are going to dock up and load here instead of over Morgan's Harbour,”Azar said. “That boat can come in and people can have a drink at Ribbiz, then load and go to Maiden Cay and enjoy themselves and come back.”

Victoria Pier was out of use for 15 years before Azar, et al pumped more than $100 million into renovating it. Azar described it as his riskiest venture as banks were reluctant to invest. But that did not stop him.

“It has breathed a life into Downtown,” he said. “It's one of the most dangerous projects, investment-wise, I've ever done but it's also the most fulfilling. We're in discussion with the mayor to pedestrianise Ocean Boulevard on some weekends where we can have craft fairs and food and musical expos; where people can come and walk and enjoy themselves on the Waterfront.”

The complex is expected to be a major tourism boost and has already been an economic boon for residents in surrounding communities who have gained employment.

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