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‘A real tragedy for Bay St.’

Even though downtown Bay Street has for years been considered drab and uninteresting, the historic buildings that line the area have always been valued for the charm and character they bring to the city of Nassau.

It’s why for many lovers of historic architecture and historians alike, the fire that ripped through that end of downtown yesterday was viewed as particularly tragic.

The Old Nassau architecture fried beneath the dark gray smoke that rose from the Valentine’s Day inferno, which was born inside Betty K. Agencies.

It wasn’t long before several structures were destroyed in the blaze that took firefighters about six hours to extinguish.

“It’s a tragedy, especially because there were some beautiful, historic buildings that are burnt down now, especially the Betty K,”said Charles Klonaris, a downtown businessman intimately involved in plans to redevelop the city of Nassau.

Klonaris recently spent$14 million developing Elizabeth on Bay, a stone’s throw away from Betty K Agencies.

He considered himself lucky as his development escaped damage yesterday.

“The old[Betty K]warehouse on the waterfront, we looked at that as being something unique and very historic and it was really a part of the whole ambiance of redeveloping this part of Bay Street,”Klonaris said.

“That is a tragic loss and also the other buildings, and we don’t know the timeframe in terms of how soon the property owners will get back on their feet, their ideas, what they want to do. These are all unanswered issues that we as the Downtown Nassau Partnership have no answers to.”

Klonaris said he thanked God that his structure was spared, but expressed sadness over the substantial losses suffered by other property owners just next door.

Because several establishments were affected, the fate of scores of employees who work along East Bay Street appears uncertain.

Even the stores on the southern end of East Bay Street had to close their doors yesterday and there were concerns among some business owners that they may have suffered substantial smoke damage.

In addition to the loss of the historic buildings that were a cherished feature of the city, Klonaris said the unemployment issue is also worrying.

“We have high unemployment now and this is no fun to see this happening downtown,”he said.

After putting out the fire late yesterday afternoon, fire department officials steered people away from the charred buildings, fearing they could collapse any minute.

The structures that did not fall are expected to be torn down, erasing yet another chunk of the historical architecture that has so long defined the city.

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