The royal visit

The visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to mark the platinum jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne provided a momentary welcome distraction from the woes that have cast shadows over so much of our country in recent years – hurricanes and a pandemic.

While some Bahamian politicos and a fair number of academics were uncomfortable with the optics of The Bahamas hosting the young couple, media coverage suggests that Bahamians of all stripes who interacted with their royal highnesses were very happy for the opportunity.

Secretary to the Governor General Jack Thompson advised that an invitation list for the black tie reception held in their honor, originally capped at 500, had to be increased to accommodate the demand.

The prime minister and the government welcomed the royal couple graciously, and an itinerary that included a visit to a primary school where the duchess in particular seemed to be enthralled to meet young Bahamian children, a Bahamian sloop race notwithstanding inclement weather, and visits to both Abaco and Grand Bahama to experience the devastation resulting from Hurricane Dorian, endeared the couple to ordinary Bahamians everywhere.

Even more, Bahamians have been quick to point out the benefit the county’s tourism industry stands to gain from the international media coverage of the royal visit and, further, from the happy coincidence of the prince’s great interest in climate change with that of The Bahamas in surviving its awful effects.

A city crying out for attention

Last week, a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper, Attorney General Ryan Pinder and members of the Downtown Nassau Partnership with other downtown property owners addressed the continuing deterioration of a significant number of properties in the heart of the city, most particularly, properties east of East Street up to Armstrong Street.

The ministers told attendees that the government was no longer prepared to pursue partnerships that did not bear fruit and suggested that the government would be aggressive in having the private sector speed up the redevelopment of their privately owned properties.

A lot of work has been done to incentivize city property owners to repair and upgrade their properties.

The Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Act, enacted more than 20 years ago, made provision for duty-free importation of materials required to repair and preserve historic buildings and made their owners eligible for real property tax concessions for 20 years.

Then, the City of Nassau Revitalization Act, first enacted in 2008, extended duty and real property tax concessions for the upkeep and repair of all buildings, commercial and residential, in the city. But these acts, and the creation of the Arawak Port to remove industrial shipping from the heart of the city in 2011, have proven insufficient to stimulate meaningful redevelopment of Nassau.

Instead, many Bay Street property owners remained unsatisfied, presumably because their interests lie less in preserving and enhancing a historic Nassau and more in aping The Pointe’s multi-storied glass and concrete towers that will change the environment of Nassau forever.

Still, we also recognize that the proverbial “more is won with honey than vinegar” will require give and take between the government and the property owners if the city is to be rejuvenated.

Perhaps, it is time to accept that the four-story restriction for buildings in the city center may have to be increased to six stories on the southern side of Bay Street while greater effort is made to realize the construction of the long-planned boardwalk along the northern waterfront.

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