Redevelopment and the revitalization of New Providence
When talking about redevelopment and revitalization of an area, we are usually talking about physical change and possibly stakeholder changes. Merriam-Webster defines ‘revitalize’ as to give new life, and ‘redevelop’ as to develop again. The scope of redevelopment and revitalization can vary from one building, one street, to an entire town or community. While such changes might be desirable it is important to mention that change always is accompanied with uncertainty and resistance. This is usually overcome when benefits are understood by those impacted stakeholders (e.g. businesses, employees, residents, etc). In some instances, redevelopment programs in Britain and the United States are met with mixed emotions and controversy, as they displace persons in low income areas for the development of new shopping centers and high-income housing.
This approach, however, will not bring about a displacement of low-income housing but an improvement in several variables in the quality of life in these areas; including the social, environmental, and economic aspects of life. Generally, it is said that people aspire to improve their lots in life; our aspiration is to actually improve our communities and quality of life. The hierarchy of needs according to Maslow translates into humans fulfilling various needs, including fundamental physiological needs like food, clothing, shelter, and aspiring beyond the need for safety and belonging to eventually fulfill the greater needs of esteem and self-actualization. I envision revitalization as a program to aid in the actualization of human needs.
It is envisioned that The City of Nassau Revitalization Act, 2008 would eventually have a domino effect on the entire island of New Providence. The government should be commended for the introduction of this act. The act provides a formidable initial step in the redevelopment and revitalization program by way of exemptions (real property tax, custom duties, and excise taxes) to those willing to participate. Ideally, such exemptions would encourage capital investments or investment with recognizable economic impact in the form of jobs, business revitalization and expansion. Economic stimulation is vital to the success of redevelopment programs, as it lays the foundation upon which the community develops new vigor. To encourage economic trickle down, businesses (expansion and upgrade) would be encouraged to hire new persons for minimum specified periods (e.g. three to four years) and thus receive a percentage reduction to business license fees. This percentage can vary depending upon the amount of individuals hired.
Thus, The City of Nassau Revitalization Act has the potential to resonate beyond the businesses and residences located in the City of Nassau proper to the immediate outlying areas and thereby benefiting many smaller ‘over-the-hill’ businesses and communities. Practically, this would mean:
1. Residences in the City of Nassau and its surrounding areas who are in a state of disrepair can be given the care and attention so desperately needed;
2. Creation of jobs within the community, allowing young people the opportunity to start maintenance and construction-related businesses that focus directly on their communities;
3. Opportunities for volunteerism to assist elderly and non-profit organizations (e.g. painting, construction work and landscaping);
4. The opportunity to renovate and upgrade to become more energy efficient (e.g. introduction of solar panels and other energy efficient appliances);
5. Improvement of physical surroundings by removal of derelict vehicles, adherence to business zoning regulations (e.g. no roadside garages), and proper waste disposal, all engendering a sense of community pride and properly managed environmental health hazards. The health benefits that would be derived from the improvement in the conditions of some of these areas are the removal of outdoor toilet facilities and improvement of running water, all of which would decrease the chances of the introduction of diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, dengue, gastroenteritis, and other related illnesses. There is no reason why the landscaping we admire at properties like Baha Mar and Atlantis cannot be done all across this island and maintained by the persons within the various communities. We have a small island, one that I think can be landscaped and maintained as an ongoing program that needs little government intervention if we do our part.
While the approach of the redevelopment program would be segmental, working zone by zone emanating from the City of Nassau outward, the overall objective is an island-wide coverage over time. In addition to the incentive already provided by the existing downtown incentive act, one should consider having all infrastructural upgrades completed during the redevelopment by the utility companies. Thus, the importance of the infrastructural road crusade presently occurring throughout New Providence. For those individuals who many not be able to afford the necessary repairs to their homes, low rate loans or government-backed loans can be provided.
However, a small portion of whatever finances the individual may derive; be it rental, NIB benefit, OAP benefit or unemployment benefit would be applied to the ongoing loan. Improving our communities helps to move us collectively closer to the quality of life we desire. Moving “forward, upward, onward, together” we can redevelop and revitalize New Providence to our “common loftier goal” to keep The Bahamas “clean, green and pristine”.
– Dr. Hubert A. Minnis, MP