Structure and development of Kingston, Jamaica





Social aspects



Urbanization problems

More maps and pictures

References and links


City structure

Previous rivals

Generally, Kingston is comprised of a port, which historically fostered trade and naval wars in the 18th century.  This trade brought traffic and affluence to the city.  Port Royal, the previous city of economic vitality, but the earthquake in 1692 sunk two thirds of the city, and killed 2000 people, thus, Spanish town and Kingston rivaled for the economic functions lost in Port Royal. 

Today import, export and transshipment are lucrative businesses. Sugar, rum, molasses and bananas are exported.  The port area is a hive of activity and is known for an area with high smuggling and other illegal activity. 

In 1755, after it was obvious that Kingston far out distanced in commerce and fashion over Spanish Town, The governor passed an act transferring the government offices to Kingston.  

City layout

The number of earthquakes in Kingston accounts for the lack of historic buildings and for Jamaica’s strict building codes in the early 20th century.  On King Street in Down Town Kingston, however, the first three story public buildings, were constructed of reinforced concrete and were favored as radical architecture at that time. 

The original structure of Kingston comprised only of North, West and East Street, and the sea.  Since the city’s origin, however, it has progressed and consumed surrounding villages and pens (cattle pens), the Liguanea Plain area, and continues to spread to the foothills of the Blue Mountain range.  This consumed the areas best agricultural land, like the Hope Pastures Plantation. 

Upper income area in Kingston, Jamaica

The major division between wealthy and poor in Kingston, is marked by the Torrington Bridge, having the wealthy living in the uptown areas, which comprise of the Ligueanea neighborhoods such as Hope pastures, Mona Heights, Barbican and Beverly Hills and the economically disadvantaged below the bridge living in ghettoes known as Jungle, Rema and Southside.  These areas have a reputation of being some of the most unsafe areas in the city, where many Kingstonians infrequently visit – if any at all, and visitors to the city are strongly advised to remain out of those areas. 

Lower income residence of Kingston Jamaica

In the 1960s, city expansion was focused on the development of New Kingston. These developments lead to the neglect of areas in need of restoration in the central business district.  The focus was on the improvement of commercialization and the New Kingston development claimed most of the functions of the Kings Street and Harbour Street areas in down town Kingston. 

 In response to the concern of the deterioration in the down town areas, the government created the Kingston Waterfront Development Company, to rehabilitate 95 acres along the waterfront.  This redevelopment sought to the building of The Jamaican Conference Center, The Scotia Bank Center, and buildings for other administrative functions.  This replaced other traditional land use, such as the historic Victoria Market, a place for social gatherings on holidays, for over a century.

 The 1980s saw another redevelopment plan, by the government’s Urban Development Plan, with a loan from the Inter American Development Bank.  The goals were to restore four main market areas south and west of Parade, and build six additional markets to facilitate vendors (higglers), as this is a key means of self-employment for many Jamaicans, and as much as almost J$30 million, may circulate over a weekend through this kind of informal business. 

In the 1980s The Kingston Restoration Company was created to develop the down town and the surrounding inner-city areas.   They restored strategic buildings and leased them out for light industry.

On the port, there is an industrial section, home to firms such as J. Wray and Nephew, Desnoes and Geddes and brewers of Red Stripe Beer.

Recent projects

Today, organizations such as the Urban Development Corporation as been actively working on developing certain sections of Kingston, these projects include Caymanas Estate Development, Downtown Housing, and the Kingston Coast Road.

Developers face many of the problems associated in Low Income Countries (LICs), however, action is being taken to combat these problems of congestion, high population rates and crime to name a few.

Section of Water front Development