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2006-03-25 09:53:37

Downtown Freeport a 'Nasty Ghetto'

Prominent businessman calls for a rebirth of the downtown area.

Attorney Fred Smith, a prominent businessmen and licensee of Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), yesterday urged the GBPA to pay more attention to infrastructural maintenance and repair.

"The downtown area, the civic industrial area, the Queen's Highway area looks like a dirty, nasty ghetto.

I am ashamed to be a resident and a licensee of Freeport when I drive around the downtown area," Mr Smith declared. In fact, he said there is no excuse for the town centre to look as "ramshackle, decrepit and collapsed" as it does.

Mr Smith said the GBPA collects service charges and license fees and has income and can ask the government to pass legislation to impose higher rates.

The noted attorney suggested the GBPA form a coalition with the Grand Chamber of Commerce and that business owners create a Freeport Licensee Association.

Mr Smith said the dilapidated state is nothing new as Freeport is now 50 years old and some areas are degenerating, adding that it happens in all cities throughout the world.

While calling for a rebirth to a vision for the downtown area, he congratulated the GBPA for the new trees that are being erected, the curbing that is being constructed and the dredging of the wells to alleviate flooding.

A downtown business owner, who wished to remain nameless, also commented that Freeport is starting to look like a ghetto and the downtown area certainly does not portray the magic city it is supposed to be.

While he recognised some efforts by the GBPA to improve the area since the last two storms, he said they were not enough. "We have some new trees that went up and that's cute and that's fine," he said. "However, many tourists pass through downtown and I don't feel as if it shows anything wonderous or nice.

"The streets are dirty and the only time that we have lights is when we have Junkanoo. It just feels like a ghetto."

The businessman pointed out that there are several buildings that are in disrepair and nearly two years after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, nothing is being done about it.

"I think somebody needs to make a move," he said. "I haven't even heard or read of any directive from the Port Authority to say that this is the timeline to complete x, y, or z."  Chamber of Commerce President Dr Doswell Coakley. noted that one of the greatest challenges in Freeport is that there is no real downtown adding that when one talks about Downtown Freeport, one gets confused as to whether they mean the Bazaar area or the downtown in the area of the shopping centre.

By LEDEDRA MARCHE Senior Freeport News Reporter

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