The dwindling appeal of Barbados’ capital city is being blamed for ongoing attempts to sell numerous pieces of prime Bridgetown real estate at prices well below their previous market value.
Barbados TODAY investigations have revealed no less than ten city buildings are on the market ranging between US$1,365,000 and US$9,500,000. They include the property at No. 1 Broad Street, Coles Building/ NB Howell at Bay Street, Waterfront Mall opposite Independence Square, Thomas Daniel Building at Hincks Street, Musson Building also at Hincks Street, Musson Warehouse at Hincks and St. George Streets, James Fort Building at Cowell Street, Fontabelle Complex and the Whitepark Road Complex.
Further inquiries revealed that some buildings like the former Mutual Building owned by Sagicor Life Inc. have been on the market for a few years, while other listings have been lodged more recently.
Managing Director of long-standing city business S. Abed and Co. Ltd. Eddy Abed confirmed Bridgetown’s commercial real estate has been losing its “shine” following an exodus of government and private sector enterprises over the last three to five years.
According to the businessman, The City has been unable to recover from the loss of commercial activity from historical businesses that once traded in the area. Adding insult to injury, is the fact that new prospective investors, for the most part, have found the area less attractive.
“It has now come full circle where companies have decided to divest themselves of the real estate in Bridgetown because candidly, the opportunity to make a greater return on investment exists outside of Bridgetown. So it is purely a commercial decision and that is where we are today,” Abed told Barbados TODAY in a recent interview.
The veteran businessman, who is a former president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) explained that oceanfront real estate in and around The City continues to maintain premium value given the possibilities they hold for tourism-related ventures. On the other hand, he explained the appeal of properties in the heart of the city is based strictly on their ability to attract solid returns in annual rent.
“Because that has fallen off dramatically, the value of the property has equally been reduced to match the potential returns. So yes, those that are not on the waterfront have fallen in price to reflect the reduction on the rental income,” the merchant explained.
In fact, he predicted that while many are forecasting a two-year window for the recovery of the business sector, it could take even longer for those stationed in Bridgetown.
President of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Edward Clarke, who is actively involved in the real estate industry, confirmed that Bridgetown had all but lost its appeal as a hub for real estate investment.
In addition to the exodus of government and private sector enterprises, he lamented the congestion, lack of parking, and overall lack of cleanliness despite revitalization efforts from the BCCI and other entities.
“The real banking and government sector has moved out and based on all the hotels that they are considering, it appears the government intends to bring back more of a residential feel and appeal to Bridgetown, but it needs money and as you can imagine, money is tight,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
“The investors are seemingly not there yet. Government’s plans in that area haven’t taken off yet, with the exception of the demolition of the National Insurance (NIS) building, but they are a lot of plans that government had laid down when they came into office,” he added.
Overall, however, the businessmen are hopeful of a city resurgence when the ongoing wave of COVID-19 subsides and Government moves forward with phase 3 of Bridgetown’s transformation project. The plan includes the revitalization of the Constitution River Terminal, the Fairchild Street Market, and the site of the former National Insurance Building to provide more modern spaces for vendors and entrepreneurs. Clarke also envisions a pedestrian and technologically-friendly city that becomes a hive of activity from Thursday to Sunday, welcoming visual and performing artists.
“Bridgetown really needs a whole change in operational structure and logistics. It needs beautifying and it must be accessible to everybody, both visitors and locals alike. That is where Bridgetown needs to go, if not it will not come back and that is why you will see [properties] for sale. Hopefully, people with capital can access them and do something with them, because a lot of them are in dire need of modernization and change of operation,” the BPSA president added.
Abed meanwhile is hopeful that promised private sector investments including the $100 million Hyatt Ziva would result in numerous spin-off enterprises.
“Coffee shops, small artisans, boutiques, restaurants, culture, and of course we have the waterfront area where three businesses have traded hands in excess of over $20 million with the hope that with a development there, hospitality and tourism-based offices will come and pump fresh life into the area,” said Abed.
“So there are several projects out there. Are any of them up and running to the point that we can point at them today? No. Has COVID delayed the implementation? Absolutely, but there is an opportunity, I think within two years, that you will start to see Bridgetown pivoting and moving in a different direction. So there is some hope, but we need to get there,” he added. ([email protected])