Is Bridgetown Dying?
Submitted by Roslyn Stanherd
The haphazard approach to the ‘development’ of Bridgetown has robbed it, not only of character but of foot traffic. Too often landmarks/enterprises are closed without the certainty of a replacement. The Waterfront Café which closed in March is a classic example. It had character and ambiance that was unrivalled on the island. Though not its first closure, it is its last.
Before a fire gutted buildings on Bridge Street (opposite the Treasury Building), tourists blocking the road taking pictures could sometimes be overheard commenting on the quaintness of the buildings. Decades on the replacement mortar and brick rectangle buildings only raise a discussion about dust.
The Hyatt Hotel designed like the typical Florida beach buildings will replace those lovely stone buildings that butted and abounded the Bay Shore beach. The hope is that it will bring the spending tourists.
There’s now agitation for the removal of Lord Nelson’s Statute. Lavinya Stennett UK Future Leader/MD & Founder of the Black Curriculum says teaching slavery is important but you need to “contextualize it” by talking about who gained from it. No context and no plan/s to add statutes/monuments of black Bajans who made significant contributions to this island.
Except for a few landmark businesses, there’s really no pull to visit Broad Street. Business activity has slowed as shoppers opt for temperature controlled covered malls or for the exception.
Swan Street with mainly one door shops, variety, a cobble stone road, absence of cars, street vendors, deals and hive mentality, assails one’s senses (down market in the best sense) and its busyness spills out into High Street and Roebuck Street.
Covid-19 initiated the switch from in bank business to on line banking. This might very well result in the further contraction of business activity in Bridgetown as a major reason to visit is removed.
The vegetable and fruit market in lower Cheapside market had an old Barbados feel. Despite its flimsy and ugly structures, it was a hive of activity on Saturday mornings. Centrally located between the meat and fish markets and next to Shop Smart, shoppers brought business to that end of Bridgetown. The reality of its relocation to the colourful kiosks on Spring Garden has meant a reduction in foot traffic in that area.
Government’s continued relocation of workers to buildings outside of Bridgetown has also had an impact on business activity.
In the absence of a structured plan to bring shoppers back to Bridgetown, retail businesses will have some hard financial decisions to make. Shop Smart was quick about theirs and closed.