Thu | Mar 30, 2023

Stephen Facey | Sound urban development can transform a nation

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2022 | 12:25 AM
A view of downtown Kingston’s waterfront commercial district.
A view of downtown Kingston’s waterfront commercial district.

Sound urban development can transform the social and economic fabric of a nation. It allows us to accelerate our progress and remain viable in a continuously evolving world. By getting it right, cities can contribute to the unification of a people, offer better livelihoods, promote social inclusion, and increase prosperity. Its successful execution speaks directly to nation-building and the creation of a national identity that we can all be proud of.

Many of the successful Jamaican people and businesses you know today took root in downtown Kingston. They accessed networks of goods, services, and contacts, and there is no reason why we cannot recreate this story for generations to come.

My family was no different as we, too, have had a long association with downtown Kingston. Those familiar with contract law may know of the Privy Council’s landmark case Harvey v Facey in 1893. Facey, in that instance, was my great grandfather, Larkin Mandeville Facey. My grandfather Cecil Boswell Facey grew up at Bumper Hall Pen, which was the subject of that case, part of what is today May Pen Cemetery in South West St Andrew. He witnessed first-hand the devastation of the 1907 earthquake, the fire that followed, and the rebuilding of the city thereafter. He started and built a successful trading business on Harbour Street called C.B. Facey Limited, which, when sold in the late 1950s, provided the capital for the creation of Jamaica Property Company and ultimately the investment in what was to become of PanJam in 1964.


Downtown Kingston was a vibrant and thriving area. And there is no reason why we cannot renew it so that others can take advantage and recreate this kind of success story for generations to come.

This year, PanJam hosted the second staging of the Maurice Facey Lecture Series, which facilitates an insightful discussion concerning the framework required for the robust redevelopment of our cities and urban centres. The annual event detailed proven strategies for our cities’ sustainable development and redevelopment. It fostered effective collaboration towards a single, united agenda, embraced by all stakeholders of downtown Kingston for a project of reinvention, innovation, restoration and revitalisation. We urged business leaders to be part of a movement that will propel our capital and our country into becoming a resilient and modern society.

At our inaugural staging in 2019, under the theme ‘The Cost of Chaos: Envisioning a Resilient Metropolis’, our previous speaker – Dr Pedro Ortiz – discussed metropolitan planning and gave insights into overcoming the challenges of urban development. This year, we had another expert – Professor Greg Clark, who is a world-renowned authority on cities, urban innovation, investment, and the net zero transition. Having worked with more than 300 cities, 40 national governments, 20 multilateral institutions, and multiple global corporates and investors, he spoke to us about ‘The Business of Cities’, a term he coined that speaks to the role that enterprises play in the future of cities, with partnerships being vital for successful urban renewal.


In his presentation, Professor Clark covered the role of private investment in urban restoration and regeneration, and discussed platforms for place leadership where businesses can take a credible lead. It was agreed that the private sector is a key stakeholder that must bear fundamental responsibility for accelerating our cities’ development. Its members must become genuine partners of the public sector in order to be engines of economic growth and drivers of change, as the duty of working towards sustainable development is shared by the government, businesses, and civil society.

PanJam recently underscored its continued commitment to downtown Kingston with the long-awaited opening of our very own landmark development – the ROK Hotel and Residences on the Kingston waterfront. Still a leader in innovation, we ensured that the property was designed for business and entertainment, with sustainability in mind.

But this is not sufficient if we expect downtown Kingston to thrive as it once did. The truth is, we need large-scale private- and public-sector activism to overcome our decades-long inertia. We must work towards this, as Jamaica’s capital is a destination to be experienced and we have much to offer the world. To get there, however, we must have a collective vision for our city and recognise the role we each play in forming that vision while collaborating to achieve it.

We have all the ingredients. We just need to put them together. We need an effective and sustainable urban development programme with all the relevant and empowered stakeholders buying into it.

The dynamism of Jamaica’s cities, especially Kingston, represents a major sustainable development opportunity. However, if we do not radically adapt our approach, what will their future look like? Sadly, if our current circumstances are any predictor of the future, we already have the answer.

Stephen B. Facey is executive chairman of PanJam Investment Limited. Please send feedback to