Lease arrangement for Catherine Hall Complex yet to be finalised - UDC
Loop file photo shows patrons of Reggae Sumfest gathered at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex.
The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) was on Thursday forced to issue a statement making it clear that the process for the leasing of the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex in St James to a private developer/operator, is yet to be finalised.
The UDC invited bids in February and among those who responded was the Joe Bogdanovich-run Downsound Records, which has the rights to Reggae Sumfest, the annual music festival that was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In at least one of two recent newspaper articles, the president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janet Silvera and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association reportedly threw their support behind Bogdanovich and his expressed intention to develop the Catherine Hall property into a world-class facility.
Silvera is quoted as saying “The Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex is sitting there all year doing absolutely nothing.”
According to a local newspaper report Bogdanovich is proposing a full upgrade of the location that will be better able to accommodate and facilitate the Sumfest crowd and create Montego Bay's first permanent, large-scale, entertainment venue which would have the potential to host events all year around.
“Music or culture is part of our tourism product and it is part of what makes Jamaica special,” suggested JHTA President Omar Robinson. “It's what brings out people to our destination, and Sumfest is one of the most iconic reggae festivals in the world. As such anything that can be done to make it more sustainable would be welcomed by the JHTA.”
“If it is to be leased to someone who has a track record like Joe Bogdanovich,” Silvera said, “I would support it wholeheartedly. It is going to be investment for Montego Bay. We can't continue to have just one major event each year if we really mean business as it relates to entertainment,” the article stated.
UDC said its response is to ensure “clarity for the public as it takes very seriously, its mandate related to the real estate with which it has been entrusted”.
“The UDC also wants to reassure the public that it continues to maintain the highest level of transparency in its public procurement processes,” the statement said.
It explained that it is guided by the Policy Framework and Procedures Manual for the Divestment of Government-owned lands (2015). Among other things, the policy “secures transparency and efficiency in the process by which government-owned lands are divested by public sector entities”.
The UDC said the request for proposal (RFP) to lease, develop and manage the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex was advertised in daily newspapers on February 23, 2020, with a deadline of March 26, 2020. This deadline was extended to May 14, 2020, to accommodate the government’s lockdown of St Catherine as a COVID-19 containment measure. The corporation said some of its staff members who manage the procurement process were affected as a result. It said the process is now at the evaluation stage, in keeping with the guidelines of the Policy Framework.
UDC insisted no selection has been made from among the qualified bidders who responded to the RFP.
“Further to which, it must be noted that the UDC reserves the right to withdraw this opportunity at any time. It also reserves the right to not accept the highest, or any offer submitted.
“Finally, UDC also wishes to clarify the incorrect and potentially misleading observation that ‘The Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex is sitting (there) all year doing absolutely nothing,’ the statement added.
It also insisted that the entertainment complex is host to several annual events including, but not limited to Reggae Sumfest.