by Larry Smith
Google 'downtown redevelopment’ and you will find zillions of web pages focusing on one city after another - from Miami to Manhattan to Toronto and almost every place in between. Even Las Vegas has a downtown revitalisation programme, although the city was originally just a cattle ranch and wasn't incorporated until the 1900s.
This phenomenon came about due to major changes in urban environments over the past 60-odd years - office and retail activity today is much more dispersed than in earlier times. But despite their precipitous decline, town centres still form an important part of a community’s identity, for one reason or another. Revitalisation programmes are an effort to rebalance the urban economy and stem the loss of historic districts.
We can clearly see the problem right here on New Providence. The city of Nassau (not just the statutory limits) stretches from Bay Street to Wulff Road and from the Eastern Parade to Nassau Street, just beyond the long-vanished Western Parade. It's decline as a thriving city centre has been attributed to the removal of the public market from downtown, the construction of outlying shopping malls, and a population shift to residential suburbs.
Cynics have also laid much of the blame on the long-running political vendetta between a predominantly black government and the mostly white merchant princes who once held sway over Bay Street. But that is a gross distortion of the current reality, which is perhaps best characterised by the Finlayson family's ownership of Solomon's Mines.