Monday, May 25, 2020
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Downtown revival moves closer

Major developments are underway, near approval or in the planning for our downtown in Nassau. After decades of talk, if these projects come to fruition the area would be transformed.

The major development underway is The Pointe next to British Colonial Hilton. It is a $200 million hotel, condo, retail shopping area and entertainment project designed to draw cruise passengers from the ships. China Construction America is its owner and developer.

The Central Bank has chosen Victoria Gardens as the site for its new headquarters. It hopes to break ground on the innovative Sand Dollar-designed building by the end of the year.

The government has committed to demolishing the old post office at East Hill Street. In its place the Minnis administration says it will erect a new Supreme Court. One has been badly needed for years to replace the old colonial-era buildings now in use.

The Americans are also building. Their new embassy will be on Shirley Street just near the intersection with East Street.

Caddell Construction has secured a $224 million contract from the State Department to design and build the new embassy.

The government is also close to choosing the group to manage and redevelop Prince George Wharf. This is the gateway to the Port of Nassau.

The port welcomes around 2.6 million visitors each year. This project could be worth in excess of $200 million.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis took time to mention the revival of Nassau’s city center during his national address on Monday night.

“The redevelopment of downtown Nassau must go from east to west and from north to south,” he said, pledging to make sure the area is better maintained going forward.

Those aforementioned projects are in the works. The existing Graycliff redevelopment, the National Art Gallery and the FML corporate office building are part of the revitalization trend, too.

After choosing the Prince George Wharf redevelopment partner, the government must focus on setting the conditions to ensure residential development takes off east of East Street. This is largely a derelict zone. Property owners should be able to build medium to high-rise buildings there, bringing thousands of residents to downtown.

Once the people are there, business of all types would spring up to service them.

The prime minister seems to understand that getting people to move to the city is key to its revitalization.

“Just as with other urban centers around the world, the long-term revitalization of downtown Nassau will require residential properties for Bahamians and residents, which is necessary for the growth of other businesses, such as restaurants, shops, convenience stores and other commercial enterprises,” Minnis said in his address.

Minnis should keep his focus on downtown. It will take the weight of the Office of the Prime Minister to push through the roadblocks to full revitalization. He will need to be the one who does what is necessary to make residential development happen.

Downtown Nassau has the potential to be a beautiful, vibrant, well-populated, creative city. The development that is happening does not follow a master plan. Yet, it is happening. And that’s a good thing. If all these pieces fall in line, we may soon have an attractive downtown to be proud of.

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