Birch: Possibilities for western frontier
The lack of big commercial development among an explosion of residential communities could mean Old Fort Bay Town Centre will thrive as it prepares to open a variety of stores and offices.
But investors and property buyers are “waiting in the wings” to see how the initial openings and developments fare in the new western frontier, according to Patty Birch, the president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association.
“Some people are standing on the sidelines seeing how they are going to do,” she told Guardian Business.
“Ten years ago I would never have thought stores out there would work. Traditionally it has not been looked at as a commerce center. Everyone had to be downtown. Now you see a shift where you don’t have to be in the middle of downtown anymore.”
As the number of communities in the West continue to rise and expand, such as Albany, Serenity, Lyford Hills and Lyford Cay, Birch said a shift is occurring in the New Providence landscape.
The East, she said, has expanded and become more densely populated, whereas out west it’s still “wide open space”.
What that means is a great deal of potential to tap a population used to trekking to the middle or East-end of the island for their goods and services.
“You’re going to have all of this development out there, but nothing commercial,” Birch explained. “It’s going to be good for the area.”
At the moment, limited pockets of retail, offices and restaurants, such as the SuperValue plaza in Cable Beach, are serving the area. But the rise of Old Fort will essentially fill the gaps for residents in the area.
She also felt more and more people are beginning to work in the western part of the island as commerce comes online.
Birch hoped, however, that more services will be added to the Old Fort development over time to create an encompassing center, such as additional schools and government offices, so residents will truly not have to venture out.
In terms of the residential development itself, she said property in the western end of the island has already become more affordable with the array of communities coming on board, gearing themselves to more young professionals seek a start home, for example.
She hoped that would continue, as Old Fort has additional acreage for residential expansion down the road.
“When you look at the younger person, they are more likely to go out that way. Even if they’re not high net worth, it costs somewhere between $60,000 to $70,000 pre construction. it’s not low income housing,” she said.
Rather than elite gated communities, the new center could further spawn a more all-encompassing neighborhood.
“If they expand and grow, they’ll be serving the customer base that’s coming there – varied businesses, not just ones selling $500 shirts,” Birch said. “They’ll be something else out there.”