Ground breaking for new Parliament building before year end — PM

The Government is hitting top gear in its drive to construct a new Parliament building on lands in National Heroes’ Park.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday told a multi-stakeholder meeting that the project, which includes a Parliament building, the National Heroes’ Park redevelopment, and the government campus, is to be declared a national strategic project as part of a master plan to redevelop downtown Kingston, a news release from Jamaica Information Service (JIS), the State news agency, stated.

According to Holness, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke is expected to seek parliamentary approval for the project by the end of May after the Cabinet made a decision to declare it a national strategic project.

“For Parliament, we await two approvals — one is the approval to build and the other is to build using a strategic project cover. The strategic project has to be declared through the minister of finance, and I am told by the [financial secretary] that has been sent to the drafters and you should have that back next week.

“So let’s say by the end of May … the minister should be able to come to Parliament with the order and, hopefully as well, by the end of May we should have in hand the Cabinet submission,” Holness told the stakeholders during a meeting at Jamaica House on Wednesday.

He noted that the Cabinet’s approval is also needed for, among other things, land acquisition regarding a new parking facility for the finance ministry.

Parking for the ministry will be moved from its current location in the park and lands have already been identified to facilitate this undertaking.

“That Cabinet submission should come to us next week so that we can give the approval. That will take another week or two to filter through the system and then, once that approval is given, the [National Land Agency] will start the acquisition of the lands,” said Holness.

He pointed out that ground is slated to be broken for the project in October or November this year.

“We have some work to be done on the procurement process for the contractor; it is not complete. There are some issues there which we will have to resolve. But once that procurement process starts, or rather is completed and the contractor is selected, mobilisation could be very rapid. So you could literally see soil turning by October/November this year,” said Holness.

The prime minister charged the various stakeholder entities and agencies to work together to ensure the project’s execution, emphasising that “your part in this is important”.

Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Deputy General Manager, Planning Development and Project Management Loy Malcolm said communication and engagement will be deepened as the project’s construction phase approaches.

“We view the first phase of relocation activities, which are related to the parking for [the] finance [ministry], as a very critical pilot and a demonstration of how we will roll out the remainder of the government campus. So it’s a small block. But if we can do that right and do it in a timely manner, I think we will have a blueprint for how the rest of the execution can happen,” said Malcolm.

The UDC is the agency which will manage the construction of the new Parliament building.

The design was selected from entries received during a competition launched in May 2018 and opened to architects based locally and in the Diaspora.

Construction is slated to commence this year and will be undertaken in phases.