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Fontana Portmore complex on track for October opening

Originally slated for a summer début, the new Fontana pharmacy at Braeton Parkway and Municipal Drive in Portmore is now set for opening in three months.

Fontana is leasing space in a complex that’s also expected to house a Starbucks café and Courts furniture store.

“We are aiming, and on track, for an October opening,” said Fontana CEO Anne Chang.

“One of the biggest setbacks was the changes that had to be made to accommodate the eventual dualisation of the road. It was almost three months,” she said.

She was referring to the $743-million project to expand 1.1 kilometres of Grange Lane in the Portmore municipality. The aim is to create four lanes, each 3.65 metres wide, with turning lanes at critical intersections. Construction, which started in October 2022, was set to run for nine months.

The project is also aimed at providing capacity required for the Bernard Lodge development in the parish. It also addresses the issue of traffic management between the stoplights at gas stations on Municipal Boulevard and Grange Lane.

As for its own project, Fontana has faced challenges with “the rising costs of the tradesmen – electricians, tilers and more – which have increased significantly”, and is currently finding it difficult to recruit workers for the pharmacy.

“Hiring has also been a challenge, as everyone knows this is a tight labour market where many more options are available to them (workers). However, we held a very successful one-week job fair and are currently sorting through the applications,” said Chang. One hundred workers are expected to be hired, she said.

The variation in the project cost resulting from the delays was “roughly 10 to 15 per cent more than budgeted”, the CEO stated, but she declined to comment on the investments to date.

Fontana was initially reported as a $100 million. In its most recent accounts spanning nine months ending March 2023, the pharmacy company disclosed total capital spending of $124 million.

Fontana Portmore will be the seventh store for the company, which has $5 billion in assets.

In the March quarter, revenue was $1.7 billion, up 13.4 per cent year-on-year, while net profit grew 40 per cent to $146.4 million. Management noted that rising staff costs were affecting operations.

Fontana’s last expansion was a sixth store at Waterloo Road in Kingston, which was commissioned in 2019. Fontana Waterloo is the largest in th chain, spanning 35,000 square feet and employing 115 workers.