fWe the Bahamian people have a historic opportunity and obligation to fix and revitalize the City of Nassau. Its history traces back to the late 17th century.
Nassau has been around from the days of the rivalries of colonial powers for Caribbean territory. Pirates roamed its streets. It has endured through merchant rule to The Bahamas now being a multicultural sovereign democracy.
The Nassau of today is a city of gleaming potential. But it also has tremendous challenges. As the city is redeveloped, we should remember that it runs east to west and north to south.
The Ingraham administration relocated the Port of Nassau and dredged the harbor to accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world.
The $250 million Pointe development has given some life to the city center.
It was joined earlier this year by the $300 million cruise port development, which is expected to attract millions of additional cruise passengers in the coming years.
Additionally, the $310 million U.S. Embassy is in the late stages of construction. That’s some of the good news.
Sadly, Nassau’s problems are many.
Derelict buildings blight the area. We’ve been unable to bring sufficient residential properties to the city.
There is a lack of clear leadership. The city is not clean. Visitors complain of harassment and pickpocketing.
There is a lack of greater diversity in retail, entertainment, restaurant and other offerings. At night, the city shuts down.
Bold action needed
I am passionate about downtown. Its revival is essential to expanding our economy and to the redevelopment of New Providence. The City of Nassau has the potential to be one of the best cities of the Caribbean.
It has the potential to be a beautiful, properly maintained modern city that also showcases Bahamian heritage, culture and arts.
During my administration we understood the issue of derelict buildings had to be addressed in order for the city to grow. There were buildings in the city center that were derelict for decades.
These buildings were eyesores and disincentivized investment. My administration began the demolition process. We took down the old Main Post Office and the Churchill Building.
The Bahamas Mortgage Corporation moved into the old Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters. Government House has undergone comprehensive refurbishment under the current government.
I am pleased that the Davis administration continued the work our administration started in removing derelict structures. In recent weeks, several old buildings in the downtown area were demolished.
The government must continue this work to completion. By the proper procedures of law, derelict buildings in the City of Nassau should be demolished. This includes abandoned and derelict buildings owned by the state.
There is widespread support for this policy. There is momentum. The Davis administration should not tear down some now, and some later. Derelict buildings should be removed to increase the possibility of new construction, new investment, new ideas and new energy.
Significant tax incentives already exist to invest in Nassau. Removing derelict structures will further help lure investors to the area.
Nassau needs a properly structured statutory authority to govern its affairs. The central government controlling the area is not working.
Nassau is not kept clean. The policing plan for the area is inadequate. New zoning is needed to define what is permissible in different areas. More public parking is necessary. Some side streets should be made for pedestrians only.
These are just some of the many urgent areas of concern in the city.
Parliament needs to pass, and the government needs to enact, legislation clearly defining the municipal district of the City of Nassau – also empowering a statutory body and manager to run the city.
The city needs day-to-day leadership, a funding mechanism and certain independence to ensure things get done in a timely and organized manner.
The Davis administration has recently announced that it will bring legislation to create the Downtown Management Authority upon the return of Parliament in October.
I wait to see if this legislation has been properly considered.
We need a municipal governance structure that can act with authority quickly. It would be a mistake to create a weak authority that is fully controlled by the central government. Such a structure might get bogged down in unnecessary politics.
We need an authority that has the power to bring all stakeholders to the table and make the sweeping changes necessary to transform the city.
Nassau needs its own leaders, empowered to focus on its needs on a day-to-day basis.
The Davis administration can help transform Nassau if it has the creativity and courage to bring about the proper leadership structure for the area.
What Nassau could be
We are not doing enough fast enough to make the City of Nassau attractive, vibrant and world class. The government must give downtown the same focus it gives to the Paradise Island and Cable Beach areas.
The Davis administration’s decision to cancel the Central Bank project was an error. The bank needs a new headquarters. Its construction would have created hundreds of jobs. The proposed Sand Dollar building was innovative in design, symbolizing the future possibility of the city, while showcasing Bahamian heritage.
Millions of people come to the port in Nassau each year. Thousands of Bahamians work there. It is the place where Parliament and the Supreme Court sit.
By beautifying the area, creating new leadership, by bringing in new investors and attracting residential investment, we can make Nassau a thriving city that is an even bigger economic driver of the country than it already is.
Nassau could be the place everyone wants to come and see. It is up to us to do what is necessary to make that happen.
Like so many other Bahamians, I believe in Nassau’s potential and future.