The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a dramatic shift in how in-person business is conducted in The Bahamas. How retail businesses have adapted, or in some cases, faltered, during the crisis may hold valuable lessons for the future of commerce in the country. If these lessons learned can be applied to our commercial spaces, could this be the push needed to revitalize downtown Nassau?
The Bahamas’ lack of urban planning and infrastructure is not well suited to home deliveries, yet we have seen many examples of innovative Bahamians offering grocery delivery across New Providence. Most Bahamian businesses have used a messenger service for years to deliver documents to other businesses, but imagine the industry’s growth and effectiveness if we invest in urban planning for our Capital city.
Due to a lack of available land, and the age of most commercial buildings, drive through operations are a scarcity around town, yet over the past few months we witnessed curbside delivery of everything from paint to lawn mowers. Makeshift drive through pharmacies were established in parking lots with nothing more than construction cones.
Will we see a push to remodel or replace our commercial buildings to allow for the new norm?
The tourist retail market has become a ghost town, most stores shuttering their windows and doors painfully awaiting the day when the cruise ship industry returns. Could this be the ideal time for the downtown revitalization project to take hold, to replace the t-shirt shops and jewelry stores with unique cafes, boutiques, green spaces, music venues and a beautiful boardwalk?
Cities across North America have transformed their deserted downtowns into tourist attractions, why can't we?
The idea isn't a new one, but change has been slow to come. The Downtown Nassau Partnership , a public and private sector joint venture, was established in 2009 to assist with overseeing the restructuring of urban space on New Providence. This includes a social and economic transformation of the city of Nassau. However, few of the groups plans have come to fruition due to lack of funding and other roadblocks, including a lack of support from business owners in the more dilapidated downtown areas.
A step in the right direction.
Recently, demolition began at the Prince George Wharf as the transformation of the new Nassau Cruise Port kicked off. The nearly $300M project is being spearheaded by Global Ports Holding, the world’s largest cruise port operator, and aims to completely revamp the area into a world-class port destination complete with open spaces, a museum and amphitheatre. The ambitious project aims to lead in the much anticipated, and long overdue redevelopment of Nassau's struggling downtown core.
Will this pandemic be the push The Bahamas needs to move forward?