The construction of the new Houses of Parliament building is to be declared a national strategic project.
The undertaking forms part of the National Heroes Park Redevelopment and Government Campus Project, which is a component of the master plan to redevelop downtown Kingston.
This was disclosed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during a multistakeholder meeting on the Government campus and Houses of Parliament project at Jamaica House, on Wednesday (May 3).
He informed that Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke is expected to seek Parliamentary approval by the end of May, noting that Cabinet took a decision to declare the initiative 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 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,”
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 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,” Holness said.
The prime minister informed 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,” he said.
Holness charged the various stakeholder entities and agencies to work together to ensure the project’s execution, emphasising that “your part in this is important”.
Loy Malcolm, deputy general manager of planning development and project management at the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), 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,” he said.
The UDC 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.