NASSAU, The Bahamas – Millions of dollars are being pumped into the Bay and Shirley Street areas to stimulate a cadence that revitalises Nassau’s harbour, waterfront, and downtown areas, as the global centre of commerce in New Providence.
“There is a really good understanding in terms of the importance of the city and really that, if we are to become a first class destination, the city needs to upgrade itself,” said Charles Klonaris, co-chairman of the Downtown Nassau Partnership and the Nassau Tourism Development Board.
The Downtown Nassau Partnership is responding to the demands of globalisation and urbanisation by organising a management team to form, operate, enforce, and sustain the updated ordinances of the City of Nassau.
“We produced a white paper that we submitted to Government, in terms of how we look at the short term and long term projects, as well as putting together the kind of legislation for the city to be run by an authority, which is key or vital for the city to be run on a daily basis,” said Mr. Klonaris.
“As you know right now, there is not one entity that looks after the city, so you really don’t know what’s going on from a day to day basis. If you have a problem, it’s a mixture between the Ministry of Works, Ministry of Health, Policing, etc.”
The redevelopment committee created a cadence of Neo-Bahamian class, to save downtown from its current state of entropy. The mission and vision are to restore the colonial vibe of Old Nassau within the historic districts, while embracing cultural diversity of residents and visitors.
“Changes have been taking place, and going back historically, one reason why Nassau was the capital of The Bahamas was because of this magnificent harbour we have and so it became a commercial centre. As time went on, it became a centre for freight, and all the commercial freight docks here. So, there is over 30 acres on the waterfront that is catered primarily to freight and the commercial part of the city,” said Mr. Klonaris.
“What we want to do is change this. The Government has committed for these freight terminals to be relocated on Arawak Cay. As a result, we’ll have over 30 acres open up for development.”
The Downtown Nassau Partnership is looking for local as well as touristic development from boutique hotels, retailers, restaurants, and especially residential areas. Mr. Klonaris said when people live in the city, they have opportunities to exchange ideas through social interactions and stimulate creativity.
“If we really want to create a living city, having residents live downtown is critical for the growth and for the vibrancy of this city. We want to create a friendly and vibrant entity, where residents live downtown, and also make it safe for pedestrians,” said Mr. Klonaris.
“Having residents come here, especially those who are employed downtown, it makes it easier for them. We live in an age where transportation is going to be very expensive and fuel charges are high, so it’s advantageous for people, we think, to come back and live within the city.”
Vaughn Roberts is the CEO of the Downtown Nassau Partnership, and runs it on a day-to-day basis. He is responsible for making the magic happen for Nassau’s harbour to become the global attraction and the envy of the region. It is comprised of 11 board members of private and public entities in agreement with the planning and process of smooth municipal operations. “He has played a very important role in putting together all the necessary elements to make the city work,” said Mr. Klonaris.
Both organisations, the Downtown Nassau Partnership and the Nassau Tourism Development Board were formed primarily for the redevelopment of Nassau. The committee is working closely with people such as Senator Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Colin Higgs, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Works, to complete their objectives and protect their investment.
“If you take from the Hilton all the way to the bridge, it is substantial right now and I don’t have the exact figures. But it’s an ongoing process, so I’m talking about a lot of money so far,” said Mr. Klonaris.
“But also bear in mind, just what government alone has done in terms of infrastructure. They are bringing in new roads, new water and sewerage pipes for the city, as well as the Straw Market, which we think is an important part of creating this historic Nassau. The Downtown Redevelopment project is a gradual progression of efforts masterminded by the late George Mackey and Norman Solomon.
“We really want to differentiate ourselves from the rest, and one of the key elements for downtown is that it’s historic. Parliament sits here, and there is a lot of history we would like to preserve,” said Mr. Klonaris.
“I have always lived in the city and I love the city and it think it is such an important part of, not just my life, but for Bahamians itself. So it became natural for me to partake in this redevelopment and hopefully in a short period, you will see some tremendous progress downtown.”