Bridgetown not dying
Two of Barbados’ foremost housing planners have accused the private sector of being partly responsible for the decline in nightlife in The City.
National Housing Corporation Planner Raymond Lorde and Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins said many businesses were investing in daytime retail sales, while ignoring night-time commerce.
They shared that view on Monday night as the Urban Development Commission hosted a lecture in observance of its 19th anniversary.
Lorde, who delivered the lecture, said: “Bridgetown is not dying, we just don’t understand what is going on in Bridgetown.
“Towns operate on two economies – you have the daytime economy, and the night-time economy. The daytime economy is retail and . . . the night-time economy is entertainment – Marhill Street, Nelson Street, Baxter’s Road. These are real economies of The City. I’m amazed that the daytime economy people have not tapped into it.”
Speaking from the floor, Cummins was also clear that he did not share the view that the island’s capital city was dying.
“When I look and see what is happening in Nelson Street, Marhill Street, Tweedside Road, Baxter’s Road, Bridgetown cannot be dying,” he insisted, agreeing that the City’s redevelopment would not materialize if efforts were restricted to daytime activities.
“It is not only a case of persons going there from eight until five [o’clock] and buying something from a store.”
The two also contended that a business thrust into The City’s nightlife must be coupled with private sector involvement in housing.
“We have to tackle the number of people living in The City, and raise the level of their housing,” Lorde said. “Government is the only entity so far that has invested in housing in The City . . . the only major investor in a modern 21st century city.”
He pointed to London Bourne Towers and properties on Country Road and Passage Road as examples of Government’s investment in housing.
“The private sector does not invest in housing in The City. They invest in shops – which is important – and office buildings, hoping that some person would give [them] a rental. The private sector must begin to see high quality urban housing as a viable investment option.”
Lorde recommended buying or leasing the significant number of derelict houses in The City, and using them to build the housing stock.
He spoke about the empty Marshall Hall building on Hincks Street that was constructed in 1861. “In any major city in the world, this would be a loss. Not sitting down waiting for the value to go up to go up to sell it off again.”
Lorde contended that private sector investors elsewhere would not be using such a property, with a view to the sea, for offices or a car park.
“Private sector needs to see that housing in The City is a viable option,” he insisted.
Town Planner Cummins added: “Look around Bridgetown. It is only the National Housing Corporation that has built social housing in Bridgetown, certainly within the last 25 years”.