The heralded redevelopment of the Prince George Dock into a state-of-the-art cruise port and Bahamian entertainment locus is finally coming, we trust.
Global Port Holdings (GPH) promises to infuse some $250 million into our economy, creating as many as 500 construction jobs during two years of construction.
It proposes to create recreational, entertainment, shopping and food and beverages areas for Bahamians and tourists alike, including a new terminal, waterfront park, amphitheatre and a Junkanoo museum.
At the signing ceremony, the prime minister provided assurances that the port was being leased and that the port remained government-owned; that the ownership of the development company – Nassau Cruise Port Limited – is Global Port Holdings (GPH), the Bahamas Investment Fund (an entity in which Bahamians are shareholders) and the YES (Youth Education and Sports) Foundation.
It is unfortunate that the prime minister did not make the signed agreement immediately available to the public; the agreement is good news nonetheless.
The City of Nassau has been in need of an injection of new life for some time.
The removal of cargo shipping from downtown Bay Street and the creation in 2011 of the Arawak Development Port (ADP), a company in which the government and some 11,000 members of the general public own 60 percent of the shares, did not spur the anticipated private investment in the redevelopment of emptied cargo space in the city center.
Many will hope that the injection into the development of the cruise port will now serve as an additional catalyst for investment by Bahamian downtown businesses in preparation for what will certainly be new and increased opportunities from the lucrative cruise industry.
The prime minister also forecasted the construction of a new Central Bank building on the site of the Old Royal Victoria Hotel and Gardens site, and the repurposing of the present Central Bank building to accommodate a museum.
And he anticipated the construction of the long-awaited waterfront boardwalk between the Prince George Dock and the vicinity of the Sidney Poitier Bridge and the development of a Bahamian entertainment space along Junkanoo Beach, the Western Esplanade and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay.
We have earlier called for the government to assist in motivating downtown redevelopment by completing renovations to, or redevelopment of, a number of government office complexes in Nassau including the overhaul of Bolam House, meant to accommodate the Ministry of Tourism on George Street; Ansbacher House on Bank Lane, acquired to accommodate additional Supreme Courts; and Court Registry, which underwent repairs but is still only partially occupied.
And, we noted that the Rodney Bain Building, at the intersection of Parliament Street and Shirley Street, now owned by the National Insurance Board, remains an eyesore with no signs of imminent repair or demolition.
Today, we take note of the old Ministry of Foreign Affairs premises on East Hill Street (now owned by the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation) and the vacant land leading to the Anglican St. John’s College property.
Other publicly-owned structures in the city center deserving of repair and repurposing include Collins House, Shirley Street, the old Pan Am Building, Malcom Park and the former City Market building on Market Street opposite the Southern Recreation Grounds.
We renew our recommendation to the government and also repeat a suggestion that more effective use might be had of the iconic Public Library and the adjacent building along Shirley Street and Bank Lane, the old Batelco offices on East Street, partially occupied by the police, the old Lighthouse building that houses Government Publications, the Lands and Surveys Buildings and the nearby BAIC administrative building, all situated on Bay Street.
In the wake of Hurricane Dorian and the costly damage inflicted, we suggest that the government considers the redevelopment in partnership with the private sector or sells off some of these properties to broad-based Bahamian-owned enterprises on redevelopment conditions.