Realtor Urges Economic Stimulus Zone Around Baha Mar
With unemployment hovering at the 15% level and a $2.6 billion project underway in the heart of Nassau, a leading Realtor has called for the creation of an economic stimulus zone on Cable Beach.
Mario Carey, founder of Mario Carey Realty, believes that a commercially zoned four-mile radius along West Bay Street spinning out from the BahaMar project would unleash entrepreneurial opportunities, create jobs, increase property values, take pressure off congestion in other areas and, in his words, “have the potential of becoming the single biggest economic boost for a variety of small to mid-size businesses in a concentrated area that we have ever experienced.”
The four-mile radius would stretch from the western end of the Saunders Beach shopping centre on the east (KFC, Buy the Book) to the residential entrance to Sandyport on the west.
Carey: “We are treating the region as if the hotels, casino, condos, attractions and restaurants will exist in a BahaMar bubble. Opportunities abound if we create a zone…’
“Currently, there is a mix of residential, commercial and recreational uses,” said Carey. “So you have a large grocery store, for instance, in between a new, upscale strip shopping plaza on the east, and single family residences on the west. What exists is not based on planning. It just grew up that way. It’s been piecemeal with each new proposed project fighting its own battle for development rather than being planned with deliberate consideration and according to solid resort region planning principles.”
But, addressed through proper urban planning with lush landscaping, attractive lighting, good security, Carey says, West Bay Street could become the new Bahamian Riviera.
“This is not to detract from historic downtown Nassau which is beginning to come into its own now that container shipping has been relocated, but what I am calling the ‘new Nassau’ or what is being termed the new Bahamian Riviera’ could provide so many opportunities and jobs for Bahamians by feeding what will be an almost insatiable appetite for goods and services by those staying at BahaMar, buying condos within the resort complex or working there,” said Carey, whose company was named one of five approved to handle BahaMar sales. “I see cafes, book stores, small clubs, boutiques, day spa, clinic, day care, car rental, all sorts of businesses. There could be professional offices, bakeries, craft shops, a vibrant, vital resort-feel city life.”
Carey, who was outspoken about real property tax issues that have since been addressed, said the economic stimulus zone was inspired by the same ambition — to strengthen the middle class.
“If we do not protect certain areas or make it palatable for Bahamians, we open ourselves to the risk that less and less will be available for Bahamians, particularly those who are in the middle income to upper middle income bracket,” said Carey. “The average Bahamian cannot compete with the foreigner who is able to borrow money at lower interest rates outside The Bahamas. While I fully appreciate our need for foreign direct investment, I think we have an equal or greater responsibility to remove obstacles to Bahamian participation and do everything we can to encourage local participation whether solely or in a joint venture.”
The first step, he said, is commercial zoning in the four-mile east-west radius along West Bay Street with no further extension into established neighbourhoods. Second, he said, may be financial incentives for the zone. “Here is an opportunity for Bahamians if we provide specific time-restricted financial incentives for the area, perhaps real property tax forgiveness for five years or exemptions for businesses within the zone similar to Hotels Encouragement Act benefits,” said Carey.
As time progresses, ancillary plans will fall into place, including separate security for the zone with closed circuit TV.
“What I am suggesting is a fundamental re-thinking about an area soon to explode with life and we have not addressed the immediate surroundings. Right now it is the largest single-phase construction project in the hemisphere. Soon that construction will be a booming resort. Once that happens, there is going to be a flood of activity in the surrounding area but so far we are treating the region as if the hotels, casino, condos, attractions and restaurants will exist in a BahaMar bubble.
“I just wanted to start the conversation now while there is time to plan and opportunity for Bahamians to benefit. This is a way for us to get the economy moving, reduce unemployment that is highest among Bahamians under 25 and for Bahamians to benefit from a resort in our own community that will offer the highest standards in hospitality and amenities. What surrounds that resort is up to us to determine and define. Let’s do it right and Bahamians will benefit.”
Diane Phillips and Associates
Caption: Mario Carey Urges Economic Stimulus – Mario Carey, founder of Mario Carey Realty, believes that a commercially zoned four-mile radius along West Bay Street spinning out from the BahaMar project would unleash entrepreneurial opportunities, create jobs, increase property values, take pressure off congestion in other areas and, in his words “have the potential of becoming the single biggest economic boost for a variety of small to mid-size businesses in a concentrated area that we have ever experienced.” (Photo by Derek Smith Jr. for DP&A.)Baha Mar, business, economy, government, real estate