We wonder how many Barbadians who flocked to the Pierhead, Bridgetown branch of Massy Stores last weekend, realised that they were witnessing what could be the beginning of one of the most consequential developments in the island’s recent history?
The closure of the consumer goods store, which has its origins with the defunct Manning, Wilkinson and Challenor store some 80 years ago, is now making way for the realisation of the long-mooted Pierhead Development Project.
The Pierhead Project, as it was referred to, was billed as the development of developments. It was an ambitious and transformative initiative that would be even more impactful than what the Limegrove has had on the quaint enclave of Holetown in St James.
Millions of dollars were to be spent. An expansive marina for luxury yacht owners and an accompanying condo facility, luxury branded stores, bars, entertainment facilities, and a hotel complex were all part of the plan.
The Pierhead Project was set to encompass about 10.8 acres comprising lands from Fort Willoughby, proceeding westward including the Dry Dock, along the iconic Wharf, along the Chamberlain Bridge, Cavans Lane, and on to Bay Street and up to Parfitts Alley.
But alas. The more than 20-year-old dream, first announced by now retired Bajan business executive Sir Allan Fields, promised much, and delivered little. Possible investors came and went. There were controversies, pledges of government support, threatened law suits and political rancor over proposed tax concessions and ownership.
That was then – when Barbados Shipping & Trading (BS&T) was a golden brand that was expected to salvage the commercial value of Bridgetown, and when BS&T owned shares in Neal & Massy and not the other way around.
Fast forward to 2022.
Massy, (a rebranding of Neal & Massy) owns a substantial portion of the real estate on which the Pierhead Project is expected to be anchored. We now hear of investors such as the world-famous business mogul Neville Isdell among the major movers behind the reinvigorated Pierhead Development.
Isdell, who has quietly resided in Barbados after 43 years as former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of global soft drink company Coca Cola, reportedly sees much value in the venture.
The British-born 76-year-old is said to have a net worth of tens of millions of dollars and is willing to put some money where his mouth is.
We have heard much of this project and at a time when Barbados is desperate for viable, foreign exchange-earning enterprises, we are hopeful for the island to finally get this mammoth vision into the realm of reality.
Some of our national development hopes are also riding on the controversial Hyatt Hotel on Bay Street. It too has promised much by way of development in The City, with employment opportunities in the construction and operational stages of the hotel.
For residents of Bridgetown, the realisation of this business venture too, would be a fillip for the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site and enhance their chances of greater attention to their often neglected residential districts.
Of the Pierhead Project, which appears to be receiving new life, the Massy fire sale last weekend seems to signal the commencement of the first steps to creating this development.
According to the Barbados Parliament website highlighting Acts that are to be proclaimed, the Pierhead Development is said to include activities such as residential units including condominiums and apartment complexes, commercial buildings including office complexes, marina facilities, a Maritime Museum highlighting the maritime history connected with the Dry Dock, also known as the Screw Dock, restaurant and beach club facilities, amusement, recreational and entertainment facilities, water-taxi services, parking facilities, vending facilities, and duty-free shopping facilities.
With the Barbados economy on the rebound after two years of pummeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that this will be a welcome addition to all the other proposed developments that will jump start our economy.
Apart from the $3 billion in foreign reserves we now have, the country still has to attract foreign direct investment and to engage in more activities that provide sustainable foreign earnings.
Here’s hoping the dream will finally come true.