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2003-07-15 03:10:50

Revitalising downtown

Interesting noises are being made about the redevelopment of downtown Nassau that we think should be louder. There are calls for a central authority of some kind to manage the entire area.

The creation of a historic district has already been proposed and a register of historic buildings has been completed. Now there is new talk of moving the unsightly container terminals from the Bay Street waterfront.

Nassau's redevelopment will be a major initiative requiring the creative contributions of government and the private sector, as well as foreign expertise.

One speaker at the recent College of the Bahamas Forum described the eastern section of Bay Street as "a scene of decay, a series of dilapidated paint-peeling buildings, empty store fronts, fly-blown restaurants, and a few lingering businesses offering inhospitable blank walls...In this entire stretch, one can find nothing to interest either the tourist or the Bahamian. Worse, the potential beauty of the adjacent waterfront, only a few yards north, is totally destroyed by commercial shipping wharves, cargo cranes, and unsightly stacks of containers."

No other competitive Caribbean tourist destination has allowed its downtown centre to deteriorate into a virtual slum and dockland.

It was only in the last decade that the government and private sector undertook a partial renovation of Bay Street - installing new sidewalks and street lamps among other things. But what the city requires is a master plan and the resolve to implement it. Quick fixes and cosmetic touches will not do. And such a project has the potential to re-energise our economy and society in a creative and productive way.

It will take a massive effort to save the city. But there can perhaps be few more pressing priorities when we consider that most of our tourists now arrive at the Prince George Wharf. The regeneration of Nassau is of the utmost importance to our economic future.

Since Arawak Cay was created from harbour dredgings in the 1960's it has never been used productively. Yet it is the logical place to site freight facilities that now block the downtown waterfront and add to the city's traffic congestion. A seafront promenade is also being proposed, where tourists and Bahamians can mingle - much like the Bayside area of downtown Miami, which itself was a rundown zone before redevelopment.

The opportunities for ingenious town-planning and design, historical preservation, entrepreneurial initiative, and imaginative financial engineering are staggering. We should not let this opportunity to create our own future pass by. The alternative is a long, slow decline into dereliction and decay. And who would want to spend money to visit a slum?

When can we start?

Editorial, The Nassau Guardian

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