From left: Udecott CEO Tamica Charles-Phillips, HDC managing director Jayselle McFarlene, Minister in the Housing Ministry Adrian Leonce, Minister of Housing Camille Robinson-Regis, a Ministry of Community Development official and St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen turn the sod at the site of the Oropune Commercial Centre and Community Centre, Orupune Gardens on Tuesday. – AYANNA KINSALE
SEVERAL officials at the sod turning for the planned Oropune Commercial Centre and Community Centre said the former should be able to provide a source of livelihood for many of the area’s residents. The ceremony took place on Tuesday at Oropune Gardens.
Udecott chairman Noel Garcia later told reporters that the community centre would cost $14 million and be ready by November 2023, while the commercial centre will cost $22 million (in phase one) and be ready by March 2024.
Gwyneth Alexander, community development director, Ministry of Sports and Community Development, said the community centre would act as a hub of activity for different generations to interact and pass on their knowledge.
She said it would include an auditorium, library, laundry, gym, computer room and kitchen. Alexander urged residents to preserve the area’s character and charm amid these changes.
Minister in the Ministry of Housing Adrian Leonce said the project was a true demonstration of the Government’s commitment to building communities and improving residents’ lives and would benefit the Oropune community and the nation at large.
He said the Government cared deeply about the people of Oropune for whom it wished to provide affordable housing in safe and modern communities.
Leonce said the commercial centre would belong to residents and would increase their property values.
“Embrace all the benefits,” Leonce urged residents. “Support the commercial offerings.”
He said Government had a laser focus on building people, small and medium enterprises, and local talent.
“It is now the time for you, the residents, to seize the opportunity to become business owners and positively impact your community.”
St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen, who is opposition spokesman on local government, hoped the facility would be a magnet to grow the Oropune community.
“It is my hope this commercial centre will be the beginning of the true development of the community. That also extends to our school, our playground, our recreation facilities and other facilities that will lend to the social development of this community. She hailed the efforts of Oropune Police Youth Club head Kevin Greenidge (whose duet with colleague Kezia Nicholls later delighted all.)
Ameen remarked that a community facility was not just a building.
“We could have community centres and if they are not filled with warm bodies – human beings, human interactions, human relationships – then they will go to naught.”
Hoping the facility would be a hub for activity, she hoped the positive elements in the area would grow.
Ameen added, “I want to commend the HDC for its response in ensuring the embankments, the pumps, the retention ponds, and responding to us when we call to prevent what happened to us in 2018, that big flooding.”
She thanked the HDC for responding to her calls for garbage collection, and promised her continued collaboration to uplift the area.
“I trust that perhaps soon we will have another entrance and exit out of Oropune because we still have one way in an one way out, because it really is a danger.”
Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said the Government aimed to develop real and sustainable communities, and to create economic opportunities for people to move away from reliance on State assistance. She said the covid19 pandemic had led to thousands of people unearthing their talents such as baking bread to sell or starting an online business. Robinson-Regis emphasised the opportunities for people to seek their own opportunities by saying a foreign entity named Delta Technologies has estimated that 85 per cent of jobs in 2030 have not yet been invented.
Saying the Oropune commercial centre will include a mini mart, pharmacy, shops, loading bays and a police post, she said it will provide residents with a safe space for entrepreneurial activities.