The revitalization of the City of Nassau
The recent announcement by the Downtown Nassau Partnership about the construction of the long talked about boardwalk from Rawson Square to the Sidney Poitier Bridge is encouraging; the boardwalk could assist in stimulating redevelopment of properties, both private and government-owned, along the northern side of Bay Street.
Indeed, a number of government-owned properties along the strip, like the government publications office (Lighthouse Department), the Department of Lands and Survey buildings, the BAIC office complex and the old Pan Am Building, may prove attractive to public-private sector development partnerships.
We recognize that private investments are likely to be contingent on some relaxation of building height restrictions, now limited to four stories in the city center, and provision of economically attractive land tenure for land reclaimed from the bed of the sea to accommodate development along the northern side of Bay Street.
The announced selection of the Global Port Holdings Group (GPHG) as redevelopers and managers of Prince George Dock was welcomed news. The group’s $250 million proposal was the winning bid in the government’s call for proposals to transform Prince George Dock into a state of the art port and waterfront destination.
The group’s announced plan includes the development of a world-class entertainment venue certain to stimulate other investment in the area. This development is also sure to provide additional opportunities for Bahamian ownership of a major public infrastructure terminal as did the Arawak Port Development almost a decade ago.
The purchase and upgrade of the British Colonial Hilton in 2000 followed by the restoration of the Pompey Museum, the creation of Pompey Square and the reconstruction of the Nassau Straw Market set the stage for further redevelopment at the western entrance to downtown Bay Street.
The more recent purchase and further upgrade and expansion of the British Colonial Hilton with the construction of The Pointe at the eastern entrance to the city center are welcomed new investments with important job creation potential that will generally benefit the economy.
That said, the style and height of the new additions and expansions to British Colonial properties at The Pointe have given rise to concerns that the historic character and charm of Old Nassau may be under attack.
The expressed concerns are legitimate.
The construction of a modern eight-story structure heavy on glass and concrete at The Pointe is completely out of character with the architecture of the adjoining British Colonial Hilton and with the style of buildings in our city center.
The absence of an appropriate setback from Bay Street creates a tunnel effect more typical of large, densely populated cities like New York and Hong Kong. And, to the casual observer, the construction appears to be directly related to flooding after heavy rains in front of the former Olympia Hotel.
While rain producing flooding along West Bay Street between Dockendale House and the western entrance to Arawak Cay had posed a problem in years gone by (and has been addressed), it appears that the construction at The Pointe may not have taken fully into account the need to accommodate runoff during seasonal heavy downpours.
Also, The Pointe’s construction has resulted in the loss of the beautiful vista of Nassau Harbour, previously visible from the ridge running from Government House in the east to the National Art Gallery in the west, along with the loss of seasonal ocean breeze.
It appears that the application of existing rules governing construction in the City of Nassau are being relaxed, even if not officially. Notably, the requirement that all buildings in the city center have cedar shingle roofs is observed in the breach; even the Houses of Parliament have not had wood-shingled roofs for some 20 years.
While accepting that some relaxation on building height limits may be warranted to encourage investment in the city, we hope that the deviation from the rules that have permitted the construction of The Pointe residential and commercial complex will not open the way for construction of additional buildings of similar height along Bay Street within the center of the City of Nassau.