Officials are suggesting that the best way to breathe new life into the island’s capital is to get more people living there.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Ezra Prescod made the suggestion, stressing that breathing life into The City would require the efforts of both government and the private sector.
Over the years, there have been complaints about the falloff in business in Bridgetown, which is evidenced by several empty store spaces and other buildings that were once bustling with commerce.
Prescod told Barbados TODAY he was aware that the BCCI’s Revitalization of Bridgetown Initiative had slowed over the years. However, he said it would require a lot more than those efforts to make Bridgetown vibrant again.
“If we get the development like the Hyatt going, that would certainly lend to some of it,” he said.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley recently announced that her administration was examining the possibility of developing the southwest corridor of the island, from the Savannah Hotel at the Garrison to Paradise Beach, Clearwater Bay, St Michael. This would encompass The City.
Prescod told Barbados TODAY this would definitely help boost commerce, which would in turn lead to more entertainment and other activities.
However, he said it was equally important to get some form of residential development in The City.
“If you look abroad, one of the driving factors around the activities in cities is the fact that people live in them. Bridgetown has become more of a commercial hub than a residential hub over the last 30 years or so. So you have people exiting Bridgetown as opposed to moving into Bridgetown,” he said.
Since 2008, the BCCI has launched several projects under its Revitalization of Bridgetown Initiative, including the Thursday Night Live, Fridays in The City, and a lighting and beautification project.
However, chairman of the Initiative Lalu Vaswani said while the programme was a well thought-out one, it did not achieve all its objectives because of the progressive worsening of the economic environment and the “feeble” confidence among the business community in recent years.
Speaking at a recent BCCI luncheon, Vaswani queried if the Central Bank was willing to assist in the initiative of breathing new life into Bridgetown, which is struggling to keep up with other major towns.
In response, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes said he was very supportive of any idea to revitalize The City, and agreed that it was “seen as very active by day, but by night it sort of goes to sleep”.
“As it relates to the Central Bank, we are quite willing to be involved, subject of course to our own resources,” Haynes said.
At the same time, the Central Bank Governor said there was a need to expand the range of tourism-based activities and encourage more people to live in The City in order to improve commercial activities there.
“Right now, we come into Bridgetown to work and then 4 o’clock we leave . . . . We also have to recognize it is a very small country and very easy to get from point A to point B, and so people have no difficulty with living outside of The City, but vibrant cities really have people living in them. We have to find a way to get people back into The City,” said Haynes.