'Huge lift': Land free-up for Bay Street's revival


Former Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar. Photo: Moise Amisial

• Ex-minister: Cut corridor from East St to Dowdeswell

• Nassau must 'figure out how to create buzz and life'

• Admits 'fingers crossed' on wider cruise port impact


Tribune Business Editor


A former tourism minister yesterday admitted that reviving downtown Nassau is "a huge lift" that would require "cutting" a corridor from East Street through to Dowdeswell Street to free-up land for redevelopment.

Dionisio D'Aguilar, who held the post under the Minnis administration, told Tribune Business that such an undertaking would be fraught with difficulties including land title "complications" and the competing interests of existing property owners and businesses.

However, he argued that Bay Street had to be "pushed south" because there was simply insufficient land between the road and the ocean to develop high-rise residences, retail and other attractions and amenities that would transform downtown Nassau into a true destination capable of attracting locals and tourists alike well into the evening.

Acknowledging that the city is effectively deserted after 5pm, Mr D'Aguilar added that The Bahamas "has to figure out how to create this buzz and life downtown". While successive administrations have "pecked" at the problem, improving sidewalks and street lighting, he suggested the Government "lacks the bandwidth in-house" to do what is required regardless of whether it is a PLP or FNM administration holding office.

While Nassau Cruise Port's $322.5m transformation is being viewed as a catalyst for stimulating downtown Nassau's revival, the former minister conceded: "It's really fingers-crossed that this brand new facility will cause the owners of properties and businesses on Bay Street to coral together and see how, as a collective, they can impact the experience on Bay Street.

"Everyone agrees that it's somewhat underwhelming and something needs to be done to create a destination for downtown. I've always argued that the downtowns that are successful create a destination people go to in the day and during the night. But we all know that Bay Street at 5pm just becomes a wasteland."

Mr D'Aguilar said that, while many European city centres are pedestrianised with cafes and other outdoor amenities, it was difficult to do the same with Bay Street because it is "heavily trafficked and such a critical artery and thoroughfare" for motorists. He instead suggested focusing on Woodes Rogers Walk as such a destination, which will require collaboration between the property owners, businesses in that area and the Government.

"The difficulty with Bay Street is there's many different owners, all with different agendas," the former tourism minister added. "They've all got different goals; some want to rent, some don't have the cash, some don't want to fix up. They're at different levels of wealth. It's hard to coral those owners on to the same path."

Mr D'Aguilar said successful shopping destinations in The Bahamas, pointing to Atlantis' Marina Village as an example, typically had one owner that was able to develop a destination concept. Downtown Nassau, he added, has been attempting to do similar for decades - but without success so far - through the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) that would serve as a single entity to manage the city

"That requires a huge lift that, to-date, we haven't been able to do," Mr D'Aguilar told Tribune Business. "Substantial capital is required to make it happen. The Government fixes the lights, paves the sidewalks, but only pecks at the problem. It doesn't solve the problem. The properties east of East Street require enormous capital. And all those buildings are oriented towards the street. We need to reorientate those buildings to look at the ocean."

Many observers have long argued that downtown Nassau needs to become a 'living city', with Bahamian professionals attracted back to live and work in the area. Mr D'Aguilar suggested that land must be freed-up between Bay Street and Dowdeswell Street, east of East Street, to facilitate this, together with retail stores that face on to the ocean and harbour boardwalk.

To create "sufficient land", he suggested a new corridor will have to be "cut" between East Street, starting north of HG Christie's office, through Elizabeth Avenue to Dowdeswell Street. "You'd push Bay Street south to create the necessary real estate to build high rise apartments because the real estate between Bay Street and the ocean is not deep enough," he argued.

Pointing out that Baha Mar had done similar in re-routing West Bay Street to free land for its multi-billion development, Mr D'Aguilar added: "There's multiple owners and probably very complicated title. It takes something extraordinary to make that happen. It really takes someone who is visionary, and we need someone in government who has the leadership bandwidth to make that happen and coral it all together."

Recalling his recent visit to Cartagena, the port city in Colombia, Mr D'Aguilar said that while it, too, has its share of abandoned and dilapidated buildings, there were multiple boutique stores and restaurants with "a vibe that extends into the night" - unlike Nassau.

"We have to figure out how we're going to create this buzz and life downtown," he told Tribune Business. "This is a full-time job for someone in government with a mandate to make it happen. I personally don't think the Government, irrespective of whoever it is, has the bandwidth in house to deal with this. You have to go out and acquire that talent and vision to make it happen. But it's a huge lift."


IslandWarrior 6 months, 1 week ago

Restoring the Vibrant Soul of Bay Street: Unveiling the Bahamian Riviera

It's time to confront the question that has lingered in the hearts of Bahamians for far too long: Who killed the lively spirit of Bay Street, the pulsating artery of our beloved Nassau? The demise of this once-thriving city centre can be traced back to a series of ill-conceived decisions that aimed to separate Bahamians from their beloved gathering place, both day and night.*

One of the key factors contributing to the decline was the relocation of public parking spaces, exclusively transformed into taxi parking areas. This move effectively discouraged Bahamians from frequenting Bay Street, stifling the vibrant flow of foot traffic that once energized the district. Moreover, law enforcement agencies intensified their targeting of young Bahamians who relished in the joy of mingling and socializing in downtown Nassau, dubbing it a criminal offence under the guise of "loitering." I still vividly recall my last visit to Bay Street—a moment tarnished by the unwelcome encounter with law enforcement, forcing me to dispose of an unopened bottle I had purchased to enjoy along the lively street. It seemed that even simple acts of leisure for locals had become a favourite pastime for the officers of that time.

In the tourism industry, visitors flock to our shores, seeking to immerse themselves in the vibrant tapestry of Bahamian culture. They yearn to engage with the warmth and authenticity of our people—an integral part of the allure that made the Bahamas, and by extension, the Bay Street experience, truly remarkable. However, a disheartening shift occurred, where tourists were subtly made to believe that mingling with the locals was off-limits—an unfortunate departure from the natural and enchanting encounters that once defined the Bahamian experience. It is time to reclaim our heritage and reinstate the sense of inclusion that made the Bahamas a treasured destination.

Now, a beacon of hope emerges on the horizon—the Bahamian Riviera—a visionary redevelopment project that aims to revive the soul of Bay Street and resurrect the essence of what once made it a thriving epicentre. This ambitious endeavour transcends mere cosmetic changes; it aspires to reignite the spirit of camaraderie, celebration, and togetherness that characterized Nassau's vibrant downtown in years gone by.



IslandWarrior 6 months, 1 week ago

The Bahamian Riviera is more than a mere revitalization project—it represents a collective movement to restore the heartbeat of our beloved city. By embracing our past while forging a path toward a vibrant future, this transformative initiative endeavours to recapture the magic of Bay Street. It recognizes the irreplaceable value of our architectural heritage, breathing new life into historic buildings and preserving the captivating allure that draws tourists from far and wide.

However, the success of the Bahamian Riviera relies on the unwavering collaboration between the public and private sectors. Through progressive policies that foster sustainable growth, community engagement, and economic prosperity, the government can lay the foundation for a reimagined Bay Street that serves the needs of both Bahamians and visitors alike. Simultaneously, the private sector must seize the opportunity to invest in and shape this exciting vision, unlocking its true potential as a world-class destination.

Let us unite in this endeavour to resurrect Bay Street's resplendent glory, celebrating its rich history while cultivating a dynamic city centre that thrives day and night. The Bahamian Riviera is our rallying cry—an impassioned call to reclaim our birthright, reignite our cultural vibrancy, and craft a future where locals and tourists can once again share the transformative experience that defines the heart and soul of Nassau. Together, let us embark on this extraordinary journey to create a legacy that will endure for generations to come.


TalRussell 6 months, 1 week ago

Be wise move if the Premiership "Brave," - cross the political divide - Recruit talents former Montagu Comrade Dionisio D'Aguilar – Assist with Heavy Lifting'. - Aye" or "nay?"


ohdrap4 6 months, 1 week ago

I will buy the pent house at the harbourmoon hotel an hold it to turn a profit when the high level residences are available.

No Caribbean country has high level residences downtown. Lol.


IslandWarrior 6 months, 1 week ago

Ah, don't let anyone know I told you this:

But, the Bahamas is possibly the sole Caribbean country where ordinary people can afford to reside in luxurious downtown accommodations, Lol


ThisIsOurs 6 months, 1 week ago

"You'd push Bay Street south to create the necessary real estate to build high rise apartments"

Why not leave bay st right where it is and push the high rise ed apts south? Once again planning for the foreigners as opposed to Bahamians


IslandWarrior 6 months, 1 week ago

From what I have observed, many Bahamians are enjoying the coastal lifestyle that comes with high-rise apartments in the western part of the country. However, there is a concerning attitude of exclusion that suggests some individuals believe these living arrangements are not for everyone.

If we don't stand up against this oppressive mindset, we will continue to be a marginalized group in our own country. It's time to revitalize this historic city that has been around for 300 years.

We need to ask ourselves if the colonial foundation that created the old Bahamas is still sustainable for our future. In order for the Bahamas to regain its former glory and for us to feel proud of our identity as Bahamians, we need to make fundamental changes. The current state of our City Centre leaves much to be desired, and it's time for a transformation.


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