The Pointe is what is needed downtown
Downtown Nassau has different halves. British Colonial Hilton to East Street is a retail district. East of East Street is mostly a derelict zone.
But even the robust half has problems. Most of these stores sell jewelry or T-shirts. There are few options for the 2.5 million cruise visitors who come to the City of Nassau, which is one of the biggest passenger cruise ports in the world.
The Pointe is a $200 million hotel, condo, retail shopping area and entertainment project designed to draw cruise passengers from the ships. China Construction America (CCA) is its owner and developer.
Once completed, The Pointe is expected to create 500 permanent jobs. According to the heads of agreement between the government and the developer, at least 70 percent of the labor on the project should be Bahamian.
Yesterday Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said CCA continues to honor its agreement regarding the Bahamian workforce. The Pointe President Daniel Liu, who led yesterday’s tour, said 312 Bahamians worked on the project, $25 million has been invested in the Bahamian economy and another $100 million will be spent to bring it to completion.
“I am very excited that this new, fresh project is coming to Bay Street and beginning the long journey of the revitalization of Bay Street,” said Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
“It’s 150 new hotel rooms under the well-known brand of Margaritaville. Also, it’s 150 condos.”
Bay Street looks old and tired. It needs a major capital injection. More people living in and visiting downtown will spur further investment in order to create services for these consumers. Property values will also increase, enticing owners of undeveloped land and derelict structures to either invest in them or to sell to others who can.
The other part of bringing downtown alive is getting residential structures going east of East Street. When the shipping companies moved to Arawak Cay it was thought that residential properties would go up soon after. That did not happen. There have been complaints by realtors and property owners that the government won’t allow medium- to high-rise buildings in the area.
In a press statement last October, the president of the real estate company C.A. Christie, Charles Christie, called for a review of downtown Nassau’s zoning policies, noting that the “shameful state” of the area is a result of “restrictive zoning”, which makes it difficult for development proposals to be financed.
Christie suggested new height restrictions between 12 to 20 stories east of the East Street area to incentivize development.
“The charm and historic importance of the area extending west of East Street, from Government House to the British Colonial Hilton, should be preserved as ‘Old Town Nassau’, with the current zoning restrictions maintained,” he argued.
“However, east of East Street would become a new, modern city center, a perfectly feasible endeavor, given the absence of any historic buildings in this area.”
We have heard no formal government announcement that medium- to high-rise development is now permissible downtown. Therefore we assume the status quo remains.
It’s unfortunate that property owners and real estate agents have had to complain in the media over the years about zoning uncertainty. The government should allow property owners east of East Street to build up. Doing so would help fuel a construction boom and the redevelopment of the City of Nassau straight to the Paradise Island bridges. Thousands of Bahamians would be employed in constructing residences along the waterfront.
The Bahamas has had a tough decade and the Minnis administration must do all it can to find jobs for our people. Every problem we face would be made better by economic growth.
The Pointe helps. We need it. We also need residential to get going on the other side of downtown. The City of Nassau could become the economic center of The Bahamas if all this is done right. The government should give the property owners east of East Street what they want so building starts and we make downtown what it should be.