Editorial: Time To Breathe Life Into Downtown

WE don’t need to tell you about the number of rundown buildings in Downtown Nassau.

You’ll know for yourself from the number of times you’ve walked past a shuttered building with the shutters hanging half off, or under a balcony that you’ve not been entirely sure would hold up long enough for you to get to the other side.

Put simply, a lot of Downtown is a mess.

If you’re a passenger coming off a cruise ship, you don’t admire the classic old lines, you wonder why on Earth anyone allows this place to get so rundown.

If you’re a local, you’re not remembering when it was so vibrant, you’re wondering when it’s going to get some life breathed into it again.

A rundown building helps no one. It’s an eyesore, it sucks up space where a successful business could be instead – it’s even a health hazard.

It even affects the businesses around you – if a passenger comes off a ship and turns left when they get to Bay Street instead of right, they’ll see a succession of shuttered properties and have no reason to keep on walking in search of those shops that are still open further down.

Of course, we have no such passengers right now – which makes it the best time in the world to take action to revive such an area. Why wait and disrupt traffic when it comes back when we can do something now?

So it is past time that some of those buildings that have done nothing but sit there and decay for years as owners failed to take action on their own are removed. We don’t know why owners are doing so – perhaps their hogging the land for its sale value, perhaps they’re hoping to one day build on it themselves if they’re allowed to build higher – but doing nothing is no help to anyone.

The Downtown Nassau Partnership is pushing for action – asking the government to use regulations already in place to bring in the wrecking ball.

As the partnership’s managing director, Ed Fields, says: “If the carrot has not worked, it is an appropriate time to apply the stick.”

Let’s start, as he suggests, with all those eyesores east of Elizabeth Avenue. It would open up the area to development, and there are plenty of people who would bring better ideas than the current wasteland.

We often use the phrase It’s Better In The Bahamas – but that’s not been true of Downtown for a long time. If we want to live up to our words, then we should support the partnership and get on with making it better for all of us.

Left in the dark 

Since July, Bahamas Power & Light has disconnected 8,741 residential accounts. In that same time, just 369 customers signed up for payment plans.

It is a terrible situation to be in, with such a vast swathe of our country’s homes having the power switched off.

Each of those homes may have a family. Each of those homes may have school students trying to figure out how they are supposed to take part in virtual learning with no lights on in the house.

We’ve said before how deeply the pandemic is affecting our country, and here is another sign. A proposal to reduce unemployment to $75 a week isn’t going to go anywhere to pay off light bills either.

There is no easy solution here. BPL has its own bills to pay – salaries for workers, payments for fuel, money for equipment and so on. To cover those bills, it needs income – and if it isn’t receiving income from customers, it cannot keep supplying power forever without financial assistance of its own, or it’ll go bust.

But what of the people left behind? Is Social Services stepping in to support those left sitting in darkness?

Turning off the power is just one piece of the puzzle – what comes next for those who are among the most in need in our country?

That’s the next step – and we haven’t heard how that will be addressed until people have money back in their pockets, and can turn those lights back on.


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