St Thomas enduring much inconvenience ahead of major developments

The south-eastern coastal corridor from Harbor View in St Andrew to Portland is set for major infrastructural development over the coming years, with a highway and the attendant infrastructure supporting well in the making along the span of roadway.

Now, dusty surroundings, periodic delays, bumpy roadways at many points, blockages, detours, sprawling excavation works, other factors like forced navigation close by huge work equipment and around holes dug by the sides of the roadway, are everyday realities for motorists traveling along the corridor.

Both businesses there, and residents living near the span of roadway, have had to endure the present sharply changed circumstances, which, however, have come with the rich promise of far better days ahead amid the infrastructural improvement process.

Even in the middle of food-centred Yallahs town centre, the dust nuisance was evident, and persons there like pan chicken vendor Craig Reid made no bones about the present and anticipated long-spanning inconvenience.

But there are large numbers of local construction workers along the corridor daily amid clear evidence of much progress with aspects of the project, despite reports that it is likely to overrun its intended timeline. That overall, has already spelt benefit to the parish, said a number of persons with whom Loop News recently spoke along the corridor.

Even more importantly, with the sheer thought of the final general output – a spanking new highway with modern supporting infrastructure stretching through the entire parish – in mind, the same picture was generally painted by the persons who were spoken to.

Reid, in the heart of Yallahs town centre, perhaps summed it up best:

Pan chicken vendor Craig Reid in Yallahs town centre.

“The dust is the biggest problem; everybody agree on that. The roadway needs more wetting to keep down the dust.

“Also, the open holes at some points along the roadway are of concern, safety-wise, and with only marl in some of the channels that dig up for piping and other lines, it quickly ends up in holes and bumpiness along the way, which neither the motorists nor the pedestrian are fond of,” Reid elaborated.

“But everybody seems to accept that the long-term good is what this is all about, getting St Thomas back on the (national) map and taking our rightful place as the great parish it really is,” he said further.

“From what me hearing, a whole heap of big things going to come along with the road development, so me happy to continue to do my little thing despite the inconvenience, in anticipation of better to come,” Reid concluded.

His concerns were evidenced by excavation channels for like underground wiring being only covered with marl in most areas, seemingly awaiting short-term resurfacing along the length of the already excavated channels.

But amid all the physical woes and even distress in some cases, the sheer promise of some fantastic developments along the corridor, plus early evidence that some established businesses along the route through the parish are already signaling intent to either spruce up or broadly upgrade their facilities , are seemingly catching onto the local mindset.

This is while news is emerging of some large-scale and fantastic developments in the making across St Thomas. Those are expected to bring significantly more employment opportunities across the parish, and could go some significant way towards erasing St Thomas’ long-held status as the ‘forgotten’ parish, and one of the least developed nationally.

Reported to be heavily in the mix of planned developments there are approximately US$1 billion in investments that are slated to involve over 4,000 hotel rooms in the parish by 2030, according to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

Back in April of this year, Bartlett announced the overall project during his 2022-2023 Sectoral Debate presentation in the House of Representatives.

“We remain committed to transforming St Thomas into one of the premier sustainable destinations in the world; one where visitors and Jamaicans alike will enjoy the unique ecosystems and heritage of that unique parish,” Bartlett said.

Edmund Bartlett

“To enable this, we have devised the Tourism Destination Development and Management Plan to, over the next decade, use approximately US$205 million in public investment to unlock more than twice that amount in private investment,” he added.

The minister said as part of the venture, a number of initiatives are on the table for the parish and nearby in the current financial year. He said these include developing Rocky Point Beach in St Thomas; establishing wayfinding stations in Yallahs; rehabilitating the road to the Bath Fountain Hotel; and leveraging strategic partnerships to develop some heritage sites, such as Fort Rocky in Port Royal and the Morant Bay Monument.

In welcoming the “other arms of Government (that are) supporting this thrust by undertaking significant upgrades to the road and water pipeline networks,” Bartlett said during fiscal year 2022-2023, “we will continue to engage a wide number of partners to accelerate the pace of development for the next few years, bringing a wide array of new opportunities to the people of the parish.”

He elaborated that the overall initiative is projected to bring much economic, infrastructure and investment benefits to St Thomas by 2030, including:

* 4,170 new hotel rooms

* 230,000 overnight visitors

* US$244 million in visitor expenditure

* US$22 million in tax contribution

* 13,000 total direct and indirect jobs

* US$174 million in full contribution of tourism to GDP

* US$508 million in private investments

* US$33 million in public/private partnerships

Only on Thursday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness toured the worksite where the $6 billion Morant Bay Urban Center project has commenced and is to be advanced in the coming months.

The prime minister observed demolition exercises now on at the old Goodyear Factory on the outskirts of the parish capital, where the center is being constructed.

“I’m very pleased to see, finally, that work has started,” Holness said. “We have been very careful to put together a development project that is viable, sustainable and meaningful,” he elaborated.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second left) discusses plans for the Morant Bay Urban Center project with, from left, Morant Bay Mayor, Michael Hue; Architect Bryan Morris; Kencasa Project Management group representative, Claire-Ann Kennedy; and Chairman of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), Lyttleton Shirley. The Prime Minister toured the site on Thursday, July 14 and observed preparation work now under way on the project. (Photo: JIS)

Holness was shown construction plans and designs for the project by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), along with other major partners and key stakeholders.

When, the center is to completed the parish’s municipal corporation, government entities, business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, a university and other structures.

An estimated 3,000 new jobs are expected to be created from the development.

Holness said the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP), which involves the development of the major roadway throughout the parish, will bring “new flows of interest” that will directly pour into the urban centre.

“This will become the home and the center around which those interests will coalesce. The development push will be along this corridor and I’m certain that this project will become the center of activity for the parish,” the prime minister added.

In addition to those outlines and other ongoing developments along the corridor, there is the resort-inspired, ultra-chic Sun Coast Beach Club real estate development that is set to grace a 90-acre property in the 12 Miles area with almost everything ‘good life’ would seem to involve.

Conceptualised with a resort-inspired focus, the 396-unit development is set to become a one-of-a-kind real estate setting on the island, the wider Caribbean region, and possibly further afield.

From its blueprint details and broad outlines of the planned ingredients, Sun Coast Beach Club is clearly intended to be a pretty complete gated, upscale community with a range of amenities and facilities like nowhere else locally.

A recent Loop News visit to the site brought out detailed planning and fundamental emracing of some wonderful gifts of nature on the property, with the finished products slated to be unfolded over the next six years as the suave, stylish and eye-popping Sun Coast Beach Club community.

The development is emerging from a team led by Kevin Frith, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TCF Holdings Limited, operating out of New Kingston, which is undertaking the development.

Kevin Frith

Located just 15 minutes outside of metropolitan Kingston, the new community is to include a combination of two and three-bedroom townhouses, two-bedroom duplexes, three-bedroom villas, and two and three-bedroom apartments.

But perhaps the most gripping detail of the development is the super-premium list of supporting and complementary on-site amenities and facilities.

Bunched into five major categories – Sports and Fitness, Recreation and Relaxation, Kid ‘N’ Play, Beach Activities and Water Sports, and Community Engagement – those are seemingly where the full realities of the sensational pending development start coming home in terms of its all -embracing, one-of-a-kind concept and focus.

From tennis courts with private trainers, multipurpose hardcourt, badminton courts, futsal courts, a miniature golf park with a private trainer, fitness centre, jogging trails and a hiking trail, those are the sports and fitness elements.

For recreation and relaxation, there will be a clubhouse with a bar and sports lounge, games room, spa, yoga center and a dance studio. Add a general swimming pool, a sculpture park, picnic grounds, observation decks, BBQ areas, camping grounds and a dog park, and things begin to get really magical.

Then, for the little ones, there will be a wading pool, a skate park, tot lots, pocket parks and a maze.

Ongoing early infrastructure work under way on the development of the 396-unit high-end resort-inspired Sun Coast Beach Club gated community at 12 miles in St Thomas,

For beach activities and water sports, there will be access to a therapeutic black sand beach, change room, beach bar and BBQ facilities, surfing, scuba diving, jet skiing, parasailing/paragliding facilities/settings, and weekend boat trips to Lime Cay, downtown Kingston, Port Royal, Morant Bay and Port Antonio.

In respect of community engagement, there will be a community garden, a farmer’s market, an event hall and a homeowners’ administrative office.

All that, said the developers, are outside of a commercial centre, which is to include a doctor’s office/urgent care centre, pharmacy, day care centre, boutique supermarket, fast food outlet, male and female grooming salon, electric vehicle changing station, roof observation deck, and an ATM.

With the villas coming with private individual swimming pools, the overall combination of facilities makes for pretty much the crowning moment of resort-style living at home in St Thomas, just a whisker away from metropolitan Kingston, courtesy of the Southern Coastal Highway that is now well under way.

Frith recently outlined the concept behind the development and some of the ongoing activities there, which should begin to further hit center-stage with the scheduled completion of the model unit next April.

The video below carries his outline and a virtual look at the development as projected upon completion.

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