Minister of Housing Denis Kellman. (FP)
THE Old Eye Hospital and other dilapidated Ministry of Health buildings on Bay Street are just perfect for a mall, says Minister of Housing Denis Kellman.
And he believes that labour sourced from the National Housing Corporation (NHC) can bring it and other unused Government buildings back up to scratch.
The Georgian-design Old Eye Hospital was slated for redevelopment more than a decade ago. But those plans were shelved, and the 1805 building began its slow but sure decline towards its current state, finding itself the home of numerous vagrants – their clothes and garbage mute testimony to the fact that they had taken over the property.
But Kellman, who was speaking to Heather-Lynn’s Habitat on the sidelines of the recently concluded Agrofest, said that building and other Ministry of Health buildings on Bay Street, “could easily be turned into a mall using the NHC as workmen”.
“And you would appreciate, when you consider what is going on there, how you can have shops in there; you can have condos in there; you can have stores in there,” he declared.
In fact, Kellman declared the NHC would no longer be “standing idly by” and allowing such buildings to “stand there”.
“We will do things. It’s no longer that NHC will just be about building houses. They must also help refurbish Government buildings and bring them back, because they already have the labour. It’s just to find the finance for the materials,” he explained.
“And what we are looking at, because you will appreciate for a place like NHC to become profitable, that we would have to find other things, we intend to refurbish the buildings so that we wouldn’t have to rent all these buildings, which will reduce our rent and then we will have properties we can lease to people in key areas,” he said
But what about the skilled artisans needed to refurbish historic buildings, like the Old Town Hall on Coleridge Street?
“They might not have the skilled craftsmen, in total, to do all but they will have some but what will happen is if we have to source we will source. Remember all the buildings will not be historic.”
The Minister of Housing and Lands also spoke about the District “E” Police Station and the historic Fort Denmark, in Speightstown, which have been put out to tender by the NHC.
He stressed that both pieces of land were still earmarked for housing development; it’s just that the development would not be done by the NHC.
“With respect to Fort Denmark, if we are to develop Speightstown, we will also have to develop areas like those and if you look at the Recovery Plan, [it] calls for things like this, where Government allows the private sector to be able to come and develop certain areas,” he noted.
“So Government will sell. What it means is the investor will come and build out the area to create economic activity and then lease to suit what they have done because we are not going to be taking the criticism any longer that we have all these Government buildings and we are not using them.”
Back in 2016, the plan to redevelop the Bay Street area, once completed, would have offered 15 000 square feet of rentable commercial space through the redevelopment of the Old Eye Hospital, on 9 840 square feet, and the area on which the Savoy once stood on 5 160 square feet. The jetty, now demolished, would have offered 4 000 square feet of restaurant space. (HLH)