Tue | Jan 28, 2020

Eviction cloud threatens residents in downtown Kgn - Redevelopment plans bring uncertainty to decades-long settlers in capital city

Published:Tuesday | December 31, 2019 | 12:05 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Seventy-one-year-old Beverley Brown attending to her coal stove at the residence where she has lived for the past 39 years on West Street in downtown Kingston.
A man walks by a building that is being refurbished at the intersection of Harbour and West streets in downtown Kingston.
A youngster makes a sale at a small shop on West Street in downtown Kingston. The owner now fears she may have to move because of redevelopment plans.
Furniture maker Marlon Johnson saws a piece of wood at his workshop located at 7-11 West Street in downtown Kingston. Johnson is uncertain about the future as he has been issued eviction notices to vacate the property by year end.
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A cloud of uncertainty hangs over scores of residents of downtown Kingston who are fearful that they could be kicked to the kerb as efforts continue to pump new life into once-bustling areas of the capital city.

Some of these residents live in dilapidated structures, some of which have been abandoned by property owners for well over a decade. Such conditions have also facilitated a rise in the number of squatters living in several pockets across the downtown Kingston area.

As The Gleaner toured sections of the city and spoke to residents, some expressed frustration of not being able to acquire titles to properties on which their families have lived for decades. They are hoping that they will not be pushed aside and left stranded with young babies and the elderly in the cold by developers.

Occupants of a yard at 4 West Street are among scores facing an uncertain future as redevolpment activities inch closer to their homes. They told The Gleaner that many of the occupants used to pay rent until the property owner died some time ago.

Beverley Brown, who has been living at that address since 1970, explained that the deceased owners’ relatives have told the occupants that selling was not an option, but that they could continue living there until their day of reckoning.

Sense of dread

While she embraced the greater benefit of the redevelopment of downtown Kingston, the hub of the capital which has been marred by urban blight for decades, Brown is dreading the day she will be told to leave.

“I know I will have to move and will have to find somewhere to go, but I don’t have the money to find somewhere to go. I don’t have nobody in foreign that can help me,” she told The Gleaner.

At 71, Monical Brown said that relocating may not be a bad idea, but she has her eyes set on a plot of land on which she could get her relatives to build her a house.

“If mi get the land, mi can build the house. I just want peace in my life,” Brown said.

Entrepreneur Sophia Brown told The Gleaner that she, too, would want to be relocated to a comfortable location, but with the business boom expected in the renewed downtown area, she is craving a piece of the pie.

There could be sunshine behind the clouds for the worried residents and entrepreneurs under threat from the redevelopment project.

Attorney-at-law Peter Champagnie told The Gleaner that at the end of the day, the Government may have to play hero and compulsorily acquire the lands.

“The Government has the power, and the law allows it, for the greater good. For instance, lands that are adjoining roads that are now highways or part of a highway, some of those lands were compulsorily acquired,” he pointed out.

“Legally, if they have lived there for 12 years or more, if there is no process towards acquiring a title, or if there is a title already but owners are not selling, the Government can compulsorily acquire it by compensating the present owners.

“It is not likely to be a situation where residents and occupants in relation to that location will be displaced just so. Full stop!”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com