THERE HAS BEEN a great deal of attention paid to Bridgetown in recent years. Barbados’ capital has an enviable history and along with its historic Garrison has achieved UNESCO designation as a heritage site.
Yet, despite all the acclaim Bridgetown needs extensive renewal.
There are simply too many abandoned and dilapidated buildings and much of the inner-city housing stock is in a state of disrepair. Some of the alleys reek of stale urine, there is too much garbage and an abundance of rats and the growing problem of vagrants is something which should not be ignored. Apart from the physical structures in need of major upgrades, there is evident need to revisit the road network to see what should be one-way or even pedestrian-only walkways and how to ensure emergency vehicles can get in and out with the greatest ease.
The negative factors are all evident as to why many people are running to Warrens and Welches to do business, to Six Roads, or the malls at Haggatt Hall and Sheraton.
The effort to spruce up Queen’s Park is a good follow-up to the tremendous work done in rehabilitating the Careenage and the Church Village Green. Most Barbadians are eagerly awaiting the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. completing the Careenage project by taking it up to the Globe (James A. Tudor) Roundabout. That will cost lots of money and funding will have to be secured.
In the prevailing economic environment, it is unlikely Government will have the funds to undertake the major refurbishment Queen’s Park requires or even the housing upgrades and other physical rehabilitation Bridgetown needs. So the Public Library’s main branch remains closed, so does the Empire theatre, the old NIS building as does a number of privately owned buildings ranging from the imposing Barbados Mutual Life Society and the former headquarters of the now defunct Plantations Limited. From Broad Street to Swan Street to Roebuck Street to the Pierhead and Bay Street, there is empty space everywhere.
The restoration work around the Jewish Synagogue and what the Central Bank of Barbados undertook on Spry Street are welcomed. Hopefully the full restoration of St Michael’s Cathedral will soon become a reality as will the big plans of Sir Trevor Carmichael for the area from Weymouth running the entire stretch of Roebuck Street.
This is why the Hyatt Hotel project proposed for Bay Street seems such a logical addition to the landscape of Bridgetown. It is a commercial project which will act as an impetus for other private sector ventures to come into the area and a needed facelift and also provide jobs with all the spin-off benefits.
Perhaps as part of the commitment to Bridgetown the investors and builders of the Hyatt Hotel project can give towards the refurbishment of Queen’s Park by restoring The Stables and Queen’s Park House. Other business people can get on board and it would be absolutely wonderful if the leaders of the pan-African movement can raise some funds to help with the restoration and beautification of this idyllic spot frequented by their brothers and sisters.
While we await the inflow of funds to make Queen’s Park a sanctuary of peace and relaxation that it should be in the heart of Bridgetown, other ways of revitalising Bridgetown and making it a place to enjoy during the day or at night should be considered.
Let’s make good use of the esplanades at Bay Street and in Queen’s Park, the open areas at the Lower Green and Church Village Green, Independence Square, Calvary Moravian Churchyard and Weymouth, the courtyard of the Court of Justice and the open area near the HMBS Pelican at Spring Garden.
We should utilise the police band, the fine arts and culinary arts students of the Barbados Community College and the garment design students of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic at these locations one weekend in every month showcasing their skills and talent. On that same weekend vendors should be able to display their wares at various nearby pedestrian-only venues with events ranging from fashion parades to food trucks. We need to offer opportunities for the big employer and even the solo entrepreneur.
There is a role for the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Small Business Association, the churches within the City, the vendors, the Sanitation Service Authority and the National Conservation Commission. The unions must also play a positive part.
Bridgetown needs to be an alluring, clean and a lively place – a bustling metropolis day and night – throughout the week.