Letters to the Editor

Construct the new Gordon House on brownfield land

BY Michael Brown

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

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The normal reaction towards the prospect of a new parliament building in any nation should be one of excitement and joy. It should be perceived as the evolution of a nation towards greatness. Yet, that has not been the case in Jamaica. We are divided as to where it should be located and who should finance, design and build it.

While both political parties are in agreement that the parliament building should be constructed inside National Heroes' Park, one questions their prudence. In an era of environmental awareness and the critical needs for green spaces within our cities and towns, it would seem that Jamaica deviated from global norm if the new Gordon House were constructed inside the park. In addition, it would be an affront to the people of downtown Kingston to the fact that although the much-celebrated Emancipation Park is a good thing for 'uptowners', 'downtowners' do not deserve the same.

Just think, would it have made sense building the Marriott Hotel inside Emancipation Park? No! Then why destroy the special green space we call National Heroes Park!

To be truthful, initially I supported the construction of the parliament building inside Heroes Park. However, after a recent tour of the park and the surrounding communities my perspectives changed. I was able to observe the harsh concrete scenery throughout the communities and its possible negative effect on human beings' mental and emotional health. This and further studies on mental health helped me to conclude that Jamaica needs more green spaces, not less.

With proper land use management we should preserve our green space and seek to create more if possible. Therefore, instead of rushing to construct inside the park, we should seek other opportunities around the park, while remaining cognisant that the preservation of the older buildings will ultimately help to uniquely position Kingston as a destination spot. [And, in my opinion, we need to remove the burglar bars and add fresh coats of paint.]

After careful analyses I have concluded that the new parliament building, Gordon House, should be built on brownfield land encompassed by Church Street (West), New North (North), and Duke/Kensington (East) and North Street (South). The 'Parliament Campus' would stretch for blocks. North Street would again become a two-way street as Heroes' Circle, between Church Street and East Street, would be pedestrianised.

By having such a large campus this would allow for the preservation of any historic buildings that would be transformed into offices or built heritage monuments of Jamaica. The old Jamintel Building would be refurbished and renamed 'Portia Simpson Miller Parliamentary Office Building' to accommodate offices for Members of Parliament, Senators and staff. If there were enough room, the 'Parliamentary Museum and Studies' would also be built on the campus.

Buildings with no historic significance would be demolished to make way for green space. Other museums/public buildings such as the National Museum of Jamaica, Paul Bogle National Library of Jamaica, Prime Minister Museum and Library, Governor General Museum and Library, and ministry buildings would be built around the park. The education and labour ministry buildings would be rehabilitated, not demolished.

What to do with surrounding communities?

While some people would have to be relocated, particularly those living on or directly beside land for the proposed parliament campus, the vast majority would be enticed to stay. However, there would have to be major changes that transform the surrounding neighbourhoods into liveable, workable and sociable environments. For this to be possible, stakeholders would have to embark on:

• massive re-socialisation (teach people how to live a quality, decent life);

• job training;

• building high-end apartment housing (30 - 40 per cent would go to current residents with subsidies);

• strict enforcement of apartment rules;

• strict enforcement of local ordinances; and

• adopting community policing

In the meantime, National Heroes Park would become a major green space, a mini botanical garden that gives refugee to the native humming birds, a major attraction for locals and foreigners, as well as a space for family relaxation and children play.

Finally, as the Urban Development Corporation, though the Social Development Commission, engaged the public at Wolmer's Boys' School — the school whose surroundings would be obstructed if the parliamentary building is done as planned — it should hear the people's cry for the preservation of green space and instead build the new Gordon House on brownfield land.

Michael Brown writes from Washington, DC, USA. Send comments to the Observer or miguelbro@yahoo.com.

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