Front Porch | Urban development of New Providence
A friend recently hosted a guest from a southern Caribbean twin-island state, who was extremely impressed with how developed New Providence is compared to quite a number of regional jurisdictions.
The visitor was especially impressed with the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), the road network, various government buildings, the tourism plant in general and a number of other markers of urban development.
New Providence works and feels like an admixture of the third and first worlds. In terms of services (public and private) and infrastructure there are things that work well and there are things that are maddeningly frustrating and do not work well.
We drive many modern cars and SUVs on major thoroughfares that are well paved with good signage, but often have to turn on to pot-holed roads or two-lane roads that long ago needed to become four-lane highways.
Cognizant of the need to improve traffic management as a part of its road-building program, the current administration recently announced: “The government is planning the establishment of a traffic management center in order to monitor all signals remotely in an effort to improve response times to any technical issues that require attention.
“This traffic management center will also: observe changes in traffic flow patterns and/or volumes; adjust signal timings to optimize the performance of the junction or signalized corridor; and collect daily traffic data on a continuous basis.”
An international research company that recently conducted research in the country noted that in terms of general technology usage, The Bahamas exceeds quite a number of developed countries and far exceeds most of the region. The major caveat: most of our usage is for entertainment purposes and not business-related productivity.
There is considerable work to be done to modernize New Providence into a more efficient, attractive and smart urban center.
The Minnis administration has already moved to fix the vexing problem of the New Providence Landfill, which was a perennial health and safety threat.
Many decades ago, New Providence outstripped the generating capacity and infrastructure of the now Bahamas Power and Light company.
Amidst continued outages, which have plagued New Providence for decades, the Minnis administration has promised that such frequent outages will be a thing of the past by sometime this year. Consumers will wait and see, pun intended.
Long term, the current FNM government has negotiated with Shell North America to build an LNG plant on New Providence. The company has successfully built similar plants in other jurisdictions.
The new 270-megawatt, tri-fuel power plant will be constructed at the site of the Clifton power plant.
If the Minnis administration is able to build such a plant and end the nightmare of blackouts, this would be a major advance in the modernization and urban development of New Providence.
A significant marker of development is reliable energy. But energy prices must also come down long term in order to help boost an economy. Added to this mix must be the ability of consumers, small businesses and government to utilize renewable energy.
As a companion transport hub to LPIA, a new, modern cruise port downtown in Nassau will revitalize the City of Nassau, spurring economic growth and new opportunities for a broad range of Bahamian businesses, including small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The entity in negotiation with the government for the new cruise port, which will include an amphitheater and numerous retail opportunities reserved solely for Bahamians, is holding stakeholder meetings with various groups. These include hair braiders, taxi and tour drivers and others, who will likely realize greater economic gain with a world-class cruise port that will help to attract considerably more cruise passengers to the country.
As noted in previous columns, a compelling task in revitalizing the City of Nassau is better monetizing the still untapped economic potential of millions of cruise ship passengers who annually visit Nassau and who are desperate for more exciting and novel experiences while on New Providence.
As the government continues to plan for the redevelopment of downtown, consideration should be given to demolishing both the Churchill and Adderley Buildings, eyesores which are no longer attractive or fit for purpose. The Adderley Building has not been used in decades.
There should be as much open space as possible downtown, with lush flora and fauna, displaying even more of the natural and botanical beauty of The Bahamas.
Given enhanced security concerns for government officials, the Cabinet Office should be moved to a more secure location than the Churchill Building.
An often unkempt and grimy downtown is slated for dramatic change, which includes a boardwalk and other amenities. We should think boldly and imaginatively about the qualities and amenities of the City of Nassau we want for ourselves and for our visitors.
The Junkanoo Beach area between Fish Fry and Long Wharf should be transformed into an entertainment and cultural venue run by Bahamian entrepreneurs.
In his second national report this past March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis urged: “Completeness and happiness comes with cultural development. It is culture that makes us unique in God’s creation. It is our ability to express ourselves culturally and to celebrate our art forms that make us complete as individuals and as a nation.
“That is why we love Junkanoo so much. It brings together our historical memory, our ability to create stunning visual beauty, our ability to create music, our ability to dance and celebrate our wonderful heritage.”
He continued: “So my colleagues and I are determined to support and to encourage the continued cultural development of our nation in all its positive expressions.
“This is why we are launching a public arts and murals program, which will result in the display of public art, including in the revitalization of downtown Nassau.”
Minnis’ comments are a continuation of the FNM’s vision and development program under former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, linking economic and cultural development.
The highly successful Fish Fry at Arawak Cay was the creation of an FNM administration. The idea was to create a Bahamian food and entertainment experience for Bahamians and visitors that would also be an economic boon for Bahamians.
In a commentary some years ago entitled “A Vision for Economic Independence and Bahamian Cultural Fulfillment”, the FNM noted other areas for development as part of the creative economy: “The transformation of Arawak Cay will be part of a larger program of integrated urban development and renewal of the City of Nassau and the northern waterfront.
“The new Arawak Cay will have a variety of sites and features which will display the culture of the entire country while helping to create another economic boom.
“There will be a permanent space for Bahamian and international festivals and cultural events as well as an exhibition hall. A part of this festival space will be a state-of-the-art amphitheater and other small performance venues which will provide enormous opportunities for artistic expression.”
Some of this vision may be incorporated into other plans including: the transformation of Fort Charlotte into a central park area for New Providence; the emerging plans for the Botanical Gardens; and the revitalization of Fish Fry, Junkanoo Beach and Long Wharf.
With new, reliable infrastructure and cultural and entertainment venues showcasing The Bahamas, New Providence is on course to be one of the best, more modern urban centers in the region, a beautiful place for Bahamians, residents and visitors.