BID is ‘missing piece’ of downtown’s puzzle


Tribune Business Editor


The Downtown Nassau Partnership’s (DNP) co-chair says the creation of an authority to truly manage the city is “the missing piece of the puzzle” with his group having achieved “80 percent of what we set out to do”.

Charles Klonaris, in a recent interview with Tribune Business, said the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID) with powers to raise revenues, establish bye-laws and manage downtown Nassau remains outstanding despite efforts dating back more than a decade.

The Government has long possessed draft legislation to codify the BID’s creation in statute but, despite the wait to drive the DNP’s public-private partnership (PPP) to the next level, he added that it had covered “everything we can” and it was now up to individual property and business owners to determine the improvements they will make.

“I feel that we’ve done as much as we can in terms of the infrastructure,” Mr Klonaris told this newspaper. “The cruise port has come into effect, the waterfront boardwalk is progressing very rapidly. Those empty spaces the Government owned, where we’ve created those public spaces, parks and sidewalks, are much improved.

“The one main issue that remains is the BID, and giving us some authority to manage the city itself. That’s the missing piece of the puzzle. The missing piece is the BID. We’ve provided the Government with the legislation. We had the lawyers work on a draft. We copied it from a BID district in the US.”

So-called BIDS have frequently been employed to drive urban regeneration and overhaul city management in the US, as they give such authorities regulatory and revenue-raising powers that can also involve accessing grants and other forms of financing.

Mr Klonaris was unclear as to the BID legislation’s status, and how far the concept and talks with the Government have progressed. “There were always discussions going back and forth, but nothing has been resolved as to how the city can be managed,” he told Tribune Business.

“It would be a private-public management team. It would have senior officials from the important ministries, the Ministry of Works and Ministry of Tourism, sitting on the Board along with members of the private sector, business and property owners, who work downtown and work out how best the city can be managed going forward.”

The Government will likely have concerns with granting any autonomous body revenue-raising powers, and Mr Klonaris added: “That’s one of the main issues to be thrashed out and with good reason. I don’t expect the Government to give up a lot, but I’m hoping it will be enough revenue to jump start and get a management team together and see the progress they make. It will be more effective.”

Reviving Bay Street and wider downtown Nassau will be a decades-long effort that has already spanned more than 20 years. The DNP co-chair asserted: “People have to understand that cities take time. When you look back at when we first started, there’s been enormous progress downtown. It’s staggering the amount of infrastructure that has been put into the city.

“I don’t have the figures, but just look at The Pointe, look at the cruise port, some of the Government buildings that have gone up and properties that have gone up. There’s a lot going on. It takes time. Definitely we think we’ve achieved 80 percent of everything we set out to do.”

Arguing that the DNP has provided the platform, Mr Klonaris added: “It’s up to the landlords. We’ve seen the visitor traffic increase, and flowing more smoothly. Now is the time for the landlords to look at their properties. We’ve put everything in front of them. It’s up to the landlords to decide what’s the best development for their properties to be attractive. That’s where we are.

“It’s there for the landlords and store owners to take advantage of what has been put in place. It’s up to the individuals. We’ve done our part as best we could. A lot of people are thinking that they are not really going to see high rises and beautiful retail, but these things take time. You have to create demand.”

Michael Maura, Nassau Cruise Port’s chief executive, last week told the Bahamas Business Outlook conference that plans for downtown Nassau’s regeneration had “fallen short” when the shipping companies relocated to Arawak Cay in 2011 because not enough focus was placed on redeveloping the properties they were vacating.

Mr Klonaris said he agreed to some extent, but added that property owners needed to first understand the rules they were facing in redeveloping their assets such as zoning and height restrictions, how the boardwalk would assist in creating a better tourist flow between Paradise Island and downtown, and efforts to bring stopover visitors downtown both from that destination and Cable Beach.

The DNP co-chair said that, while it was agreed buildings in the area considered as “historic Nassau” will not exceed four to five storeys in height, there would be flexibility in other parts of downtown Nassau and developers/property owners will have to make the case to the planning authorities to justify the height they desire.

“I think we see some demolitions and some properties being repaired right now,” Mr Klonaris said. “We’ve played a role in all of this. The important thing is that talking to the retailers they are so much happier now than looking back. The most important thing is creating demand for retailers, bringing people downtown. That’s going to bring more value and benefits to the city.”


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