By JOHN ISSA
THERE is no denying that it needs to happen.
There is no denying that it is good for Nassau.
There is no denying that it is good for property owners.
There is no denying that it is good for small and big businesses.
There is no denying that it is good for employment.
There is no denying that it is good for the economy.
What is this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is good for all?
It is the redevelopment of downtown and the waterfront area of our capital city, Nassau. This area has been in decline for over two decades and there is now the real possibility of its rebirth.
Why is this so? It is because the stars are aligned, or to paraphrase a memorable line from a famous song “this could be the dawning of the age of Aquarius”. The stars which are aligned are the moving of the docks from East Bay Street, which freed up the waterfront land, the slump that has plagued most retail and other commercial properties on Bay Street for many years and the recent purchase of the British Colonial Hilton by deep pocket property investors from China.
A redevelopment committee has been in place for some time and it is made up of representatives of all major stakeholder groups. However, its progress appears to be quite slow.
Also judging from what appears in the media from time-to-time, no opportunity seems to be lost to promote any disagreements between the various interests involved. Each interested party, including the government, has its own particular goals and objectives but the redevelopment won’t happen unless there is compromise on all sides. There were even concerns raised about the fact that foreign investors have purchased the British Colonial Hilton even though the previous two purchasers of the hotel were foreign.
This opportunity is so important to Nassau and it’s people that it may best be achieved if a master plan for the designated area were developed quickly by the appropiate government department after suitable consultation with – and the involvement of – all stakeholders and the best planners available.
Then the Government should offer very attractive incentives to those stakeholders who commence developments in keeping with the master plan within the next three years.
These incentives could include relief from land taxes for ten years, duty free importation of all materials and equipment needed for these developments and relief from business licence fees for ten years. To compensate for this loss of revenue, the government should sell all its unused property within the designated area – or at least exchange it for space needed for essential public services such as a police station, post office, tourist information depot and other public needs within the newly developed area. This will avoid the taxpayer having to find the cash for such amenities.
This is a win-win for all parties so let us not be shortsighted and miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If we do, our children will never forgive us.
• John Issa is executive chairman of SuperClubs. He is writing monthly in The Tribune.