This year we celebrate the 145th anniversary of Kingston being designated the capital city of Jamaica. This momentous occasion is rife with nostalgia as many Kingstonions reflect on what was once the centre of all vibrancy, commonly referred to as Downtown Kingston. Kingston was born of out necessity as the main residential town of Port Royal met with a series of unfortunate events including earthquakes and fires. At that time Kingston was mainly an agricultural area and as the residents sought refuge across the harbour, the makings of this modern city began to take shape. With the growing size and importance of Kingston, the merchant classes lobbied the government to move the capital from Spanish Town and succeeded in their efforts in 1872. City life took hold and the magnificent Kingston Harbour and waterfront was awash with commerce and was truly the first official port for modern cruise ships and in essence the pearl of the Caribbean. Over time this pearl began to dull as both citizens and businesses left downtown for the latest developments- New Kingston -and areas of St. Andrew, known as "uptown" However, the pearl never really lost her shine and both locals and visitors are falling in love with downtown Kingston, Jamaica again.
The Re-Birth of "Town"
: This revival started in earnest a few years ago with some corporate offices seeking to relocate downtown based on an incentive programme offered by the Government. Since then many other companies have sought to expand their presence with a slew of new projects set to come online. Downtown Kingston commonly referred as "Town" is undergoing a revival
Projects in the Pipeline: The Urban Development Corporate has a number of projects earmarked for Downtown Kingston , according to General Manager of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Dr Damian Graham, he reiterated the Government's commitment to undertake the downtown Kingston Redevelopment Project. This will include new offices in downtown Kingston that will house the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The 11-storey building worth almost JA$4 billion is scheduled to open in 2018. The UDC is the overall project manager for the project with approximately JA$3.267 billion of the total project cost being funded by a grant from the People͛ Republic of China, while the Government of Jamaica Parliament and Government Offices Oval Zone project. Speaking at the signing, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he is happy for this Public Private Partnership which signals the start of great things for Jamaica The UDC in 2010 , as part of its redevelopment plan for downtown Kingston and Port Royal, designated the National Heroes Circle and the surrounding zone as the space to locate the GOJ parliament, a national museum and locate government offices and mixed-use commercial, residential and service zones around the oval.
Culture on the Move:
While infrastructure is being given a serious focus, culture is also on the move. Many non-governmental organizations and just ordinary citizens are working on their own vision of downtown Kingston. The artistic development on "Fleet Street" showcases beautiful murals and is Kingston's equivalent to the famous Wynwood
district in South Florida. Other energy of note is the on-going Street Urban Experience offered by inner city pastor and businessman, Carrington Morgan. This is truly an experience that lets you live like a local in the most authentic
manner with exposure to the downtown "cook shop" scene or a cultural exchange like playing a game of "scrimmage" or corner football. More formal moves include the push to establish the much talked about Jamaica Music Museum. Kingston, recently designated a UNESCO Creative City for Music and the birthplace of five (5) musical genres –ska, mento, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall, is anxious to showcase the musical legacy of Jamaica and Kingston, in particular.
In the meantime, feel free to visit the Institute of Jamaica, where the current Music History collection is housed for an immersive experience into the roots of Jamaican music. Other iconic downtown Kingston landmarks like the Ward Theatre are in full restoration mode with the Mayor of Kingston, Delroy Williams promising a 2018 re-opening.