Work at the urban high-rise development which is being constructed at ???The Grotto???, Beckles Road, St. Michael, is on schedule and will meet its slated September finish.

This confirmation came from Contract Manager for Preconco Limited, Gabriel Varvaro, as he led Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development, Denis Kellman; General Manager of the National Housing Corporation (NHC), Lanette Napoleon; and other officials from both the Ministry and the NHC, on a tour of the site earlier today.

Giving an update on the project which commenced April 1 last year, Mr. Varvaro stated that it was about 50 per cent complete, and was ???actually ahead of time???.

???We have just finished the structure of the third building. We are proceeding with the next two in February and March; it takes about one month to put [each one] up. The project is still on track to be completed on time???we are actually targeting an earlier completion but obviously we need to take into account certain variables like rain,??? the Manager noted.

Mr. Varvaro described the buildings as ???easy to build??? and suggested duplicating the design across the country.

???I think the buildings are attractive, functional and effective. The apartments are very well proportioned. Bedrooms are just over 100 square feet which is a good size for a low-income development. The square footage of the apartment is 650 which is a very good size as the usual requirement is 600. We utilised the space inside very efficiently so there are really no dead areas inside the apartments,??? he outlined.

The Preconco official highlighted some of the benefits of the high-rise concept, including increased ???green space??? and an opportunity for greater community integration.

???In an area like ???The Grotto??? site, which is probably two or three hectares, you have 80 families, that is probably 30 per cent more than the average density you have in urban areas, but then you will have probably five times more green space. How regular do you see a community with 80 dwellings that actually have a park to share? This is actually what you are achieving here, you are getting the dwellings in a vertical stacking manner and you are opening space for common use. So that creates more integration in the community,??? he pointed out.

Housing Minister Denis Kellman also alluded to the importance of a green area within the development, and highlighted the preserved treed environment at the site, which he stated is not unique to this project.

???The Town Planner has been doing his best to ensure that wherever there are significant projects, that greening occurs, not greening in terms of using grass to landscape, but also in terms of how you plant trees. What I have impressed upon the developers is the possibility of planting a lot more fruit trees. I think that this is a smart way for us to start developing our food bank, whereas instead of just planting the ornamentals, that you plant some fruit trees so that the residents would not have to purchase certain items,??? he reasoned.

Mr. Kellman also expressed satisfaction with the location of the development, and while he commended the significant increase in the quality of the houses in the neighbouring communites, he stated that his Ministry, in collaboration with the Urban Development Commission, would ???have to look at the aesthetics of the area and see how those aesthetics can be taken to a different level to fit into this project.???

On completion, the housing development at ???The Grotto??? will comprise five apartment buildings, consisting of 16 units each on four levels.

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