‘. . . No dying Bridgetown!’
Chief Town Planner and economist on putting more life into the City
Co-chairpersons of the National Habitat Committee, Jeremy Stephen and Mark Cummins, have dismissed suggestions by critics that this country’s capital Bridgetown is “dying”.
Over the past couple of years a number of individuals, including those from the business community, have complained that more life needs to be pumped back into The City in order to encourage more economic activity there.
However, Cummins, who is also the Chief Town Planner, has suggested that the private sector come up with more creative ways of driving more business in The City. And Stephen, who is an economist, has proffered that perhaps the time has come for a change in focus for the capital.
The two were speaking to reporters following the official opening of the National Consultation On Housing And Sustainable Urban Development at the Accra Beach Hotel in Rockley, Christ Church, recently.
Acknowledging that parking in The City was “a challenge” and perhaps the time had come to introduce parking meters, Cummins said this was one factor he believe could encourage more people to visit the once bustling town.
“I think the businesspeople also have to determine, based on professional advice and also from their business acumen and other institutional knowledge, what are the types of activities they would wish to see in Bridgetown that may be able to attract persons to Bridgetown.”
He said one “potential win-win” was the use of the lift bridge, pointing out that in Russia there was a programme in place where at least once a month for a period of time there was “a whole slew of activities” taking place themed around the lifting of the bridges.
“There are numerous Barbadians who have not seen that lift bridge operational,” said Cummins.
“We only have one that can lift, but we can find something to do with that. The Urban Development Commission, the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc., they have redeveloped and cleaned up the Careenage all the way up to the Queen’s Park Gate and very shortly they are going to The Globe. One can encourage boating activities there,” the Chief Town Planner pointed out.
“So the business sector needs to bring out its creative juices and seek to ride on these things. We have Church Village Green, we have Independence Square, and we have Jubilee Gardens. So we have good public spaces in Bridgetown,” said Cummins, adding that Bridgetown would always remain the capital and the main shopping and banking hub.
The Chief Town Planner said he had seen a number of developments in and around the town, which suggested there were more opportunities opening up for the business community to capitalize on.
“I do not share the view that Bridgetown is dying. I think the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the businesspeople need to look at a number of things that can be done in Bridgetown,” he argued.
Cummins said he was aware that the Ministry of Tourism was in the process of “looking at improving the infrastructure in Bridgetown”.
“That is one area where I admit that work needs to be done. Also public bathrooms –– that has also been identified. But I don’t share the view Bridgetown is dying,” he insisted.
Stephen said while he also did not support the view that The City was dying, he believed the area was going through a transformation, which was “the natural course of cities from as far back as Athens to now in modern societies”.
“Cities tend to transform when there is a need for a change in legislation, or if the old pool factors no longer exist,” he said, pointing out that it was perhaps time to change the retail model Bridgetown had survived on in the past.
Stephen explained that more people, regardless of the their social class, were more interested in shopping online and perhaps a greater focus should be placed on making the area more of a logistics hub.
“What the businessmen in Bridgetown have to recognized then is that they need to drive a more service-based model,” said the economist, adding that “we need to look at urban revitalization”, and getting more people to not only convene in Bridgetown for shopping but to also “live and seek entertainment”.
“So it is the onus of the Social Partnership to really work together in providing incentives for new activity to convene in Bridgetown. And I think part of the process . . . has to be pushed by this whole national consultative process,” said Stephen.