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.

36 thoughts on “Is Bridgetown Dying?

  1. when I left Bim in the early 80s Bridgetown was vibrant. if you wanted to meet someone you would say meet me in front of Cave Shepherd or DaCosta etc at the appointed time. but i saw the slow death of it year after year as Oistins, Six Road and Warrens were haphazardly developed and Bridgetown left to wilt.

    on the other hand, Bridgetown needs proper living arrangements to attract young adults to the city to reside and work. London Bourne towers should have been the start of such an initiative.

    generally we should have knocked down all the houses in the city environment- better yet burn them all down- replan and rebuild a mondern day city. it is a bloody disgrace

  2. It’s a government plan, destroy HISTORY and the tourists will come. Too much watching uncle Sam’s TV & Movies, BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME.

  3. @ Greene June 26, 2020 8:41 AM

    A rather ‘fair’ assessment of the parlous and decaying state of Barbados’s so-called Capital city.

    Your pal Hal has also been very stridently constructive in his criticism of his former second home in Bim. His old recommendations are in keeping with your new proposal(s).

    Maybe it’s the lingering curse arising the re-positioning of the blighted statue of Nelson instead of removing it and relocating to its rightful place as a museum piece of 19th century Bajan curiosity as Rachel Pringle is for the 18th.

    How can any enlightened government move so many of its offices out of the country’s Capital and still expect it to function like a vibrant city of the 21st Century?

    Even the health and environmental state of Bridgetown is a sad commentary on both political administrations. Isn’t the minister of health the parliamentary representative for the City populated by more ‘wharf’ rats than people by a factor of 1 thousand to one and geometrically expanding?

  4. Plse remember that town and country planning has been the responsibility of every prime minister since independence. So, when we are talking with flaring arms, pointing fingers, staring eyes, we know where the blame lies.

  5. New City?

    Our economy is in a parlous state. The present Government inherited a BROKE ECONOMY and most new Governments do. A new city? Not remotely possible in the nearest future. Our decaying Infrastructure has to be replace. We need to start with a state of the art Sewer Plant. Our Government and civil Engineers need to consult with the professional (Rodi Systems) who has the engineering expertise to undertake the task.

  6. Author is on the right lines but for one thing. Tense.

    Dying is present tense. Bridgetown done long time. About ten to fifteen years back.

    All that is left is a shell of what was.

    We can reminisce about past times, but it was a different Barbados that out forbears enjoyed.

    Greene is spot on, time to move on.

    Yes, you can rebuild, strategically selling property to developers. Lease if it worries you. 99 year leases, which leaves some legacy for coming generations.

    Tomorrow calls.

    • @Crusoe

      You are on point. No upwardly mobile thinking Bajan will want to live within the locale of the City.

  7. Sad to see Waterfront Cafe closing its doors and auctioning furniture and equipment yesterday. It makes one wonder if a top class restaurant cannot survive on the waterfront what else can in Bridgetown.

  8. TronJune 26, 2020 2:43 PM

    David, every time I passed the Waterfront, which may have been every couple of weeks on weekday or Saturday, pre lockdown, there were ample tourists on the balcony, almost every table occupied.

    Did I happen to pass each time it was full? I doubt it.

    I suspect that, as with every business, rent or priority on the part of the property owner is the real issue. I have no evidence for this , speculation and opinion on my part.

  9. We have to accept the city has been on a slow death for years. I doubt many people realise the amount of square footage that is locked up in town now and has been for months. The city now is broad street and swan street mainly. On broad street several large retail spaces have been closed for months. Covid will simply now hasten the demise of the city.

    • A few years ago the BCCI took Bridgetown as a project, what happened?

      Then there was the Bridgetown Redevelopment Project led by the BTI, what happened?

  10. B’town is a city in a small, flat island with a good road network and is therefore very susceptible to losing its urban primacy. This is where differentiation becomes important and Bridgetown has some key features that Warrens, Six Roads, Sheraton and the other locations cannot replicate–Pierhead/Careenage, Carlise Bay and Parliament/Supreme Court etc. The future of B’town depends on how these attributes and other parts ofvthe city are developed and exploited to create a vibrant day and night time economy–housing, hotels and other visitor accommodation, leisure, culture and entertainment activities, restaurants, bars, rumshops, pedestrian and bicycle-oriented streets, greening, a legible and safe environment, public spaces and importantly establishing other offices in and around parliament that have a functional relationship with it. Redeveloping the Pierhead is the catalyst and brings me back to my comment some months ago about urban regeneration being a public good.

  11. The problem with the city is that it is a poor investment property wise. You have broken side walks, no real parking and some of the highest land taxes on the island. Add to this the expansion of areas like Warrens, Sheraton, Sky Mall and others and what did one expect was going to happen?

    The businesses are all recording falling sales in the city and hence do not see major upgrades being a reality. When we add the post covid economy to the mix, i see more closures in town especially for those that were barely holding on before covid. Wunna fail to realise that Barbados was in a 10 year period of practically zero growth making businesses pre covid already weak. When you now throw no tourism traffic or cropover business at them this year, how will many survive until December? I foresee a sizeable contraction of commercial activity by December 2020 and we really can blame no one for it except the Chinese.

  12. Bridgetown, including its suburbs has the potential to be the perfect fifteen minute city.

    But we don’t like old. We only like to throw away ol. We even throw away our old people.

    And of course we worship cars, especially our MEN worship their vehicles.

    I haven’t had a car for more 21 years and especially since COVID19 I’ve realized that I live in the perfect place, Maybe not 15 minutes walk, but no more than half an hour’s walk to the grocery, health clinic, doctor, dentist, church, beach, shoe and clothing stores, hardware store, 8 minutes walk to the bus stop for when I want to go farther. I would hate to see Bridgetown die, but maybe it won’t die, maybe it will just pass to others who realize its magical potential

  13. Is is that building owners earn more money from boarded up buildings, rather than accept smaller rents?

    It seems to me to that if property tax on Bridgetown buildings is onerous, there is room for government to creat tax policy that will permit this beautiful little city on the sea to survive and thrive.

  14. Once more the blind is writing.,Where have you all been. Why don’t you tell the damn truth. Corporate Barbados killed off Bridgetown when they decided to develop “ Warrens City”. They had no intention of preserving those old historic buildings; they never had any plans to keep Bridgetown alive. They as is customary restored what was of interest to them like the Jewish Synagogue etc.
    Did they ever think about restoring the library. These are some of the most hypocritical postings I have ever read on BU.
    Of course o the government side, we just knocked down an architectural masterpiece in the National insurance building because it was easier to spend millions knocking it down than thousands to make it habitable again.
    Once more the traditional private sector had screwed us and we are only going to point fingers at the government and the Town and Country planning Office.
    BTW , go and check who brought the buildings . Don’t be surprised they don’t like to spend money but they love to collect rent and they are not black.

  15. CORPORATE barbados (which is not black) killed off Bridgetown
    The Triditional private sector (which is not black) had screwed us.
    Check who bought the buildings………………..and they are not blacks.

    So why are non black buying up the building in a dead city?
    who are they collecting rent from in a dead city?
    Why are these people paying rent in a dead city?

    There are a few factors that killed of Bridgetown slowly. the ABC high way, the satellite cities / malls, the moving of the goverment offices, the increase in private vehicles and the lack of parking spaces .

    Increases development just like the creation of Bridgetown killed off the older towns like holetown etc.

  16. “we just knocked down an architectural masterpiece in the National insurance building..”

    Ah beg yuh pardon? Words of a true amateur. 🤣🤣🤣🤣

  17. @ William

    Have you noticed how some people can never debate, they either try to pour scorn on other people’s ideas or come out laughing like wild hyenas.
    Again I must say, you are an officer and a gentleman. Your tolerance level is remarkable. You must never forget you are dealing with Bajans, a special people. They come out with nonsense about if the cap fits, and read in to that and all that bogus crap, rather than explain themselves in plain English.
    I think @Tron got it perfectly yesterday in another blog. Some claim they work at top levels in PR (whatever that is) and marketing yet cannot write simple sentences or explain a simple point, whether we agree with them or not.
    How does one define an architectural masterpiece? @William, just look at how Old Bridgetown has declined. In the 1960s Marhill Street and the Palmetto Square area became streets of betting (an import from Trinidad) and rum shops and huskers. I remember as a little boy going along there to get newspapers from Dan Blackett. Nothing has changed.
    Now in the shadow of parliament all we have are old wooden carts selling fruit and vegetables and other essentials. Neither the DLP nor BLP has been able to sort out this declining mess.
    The creation of Warrens as a commercial town was the easy way out; they did the same with many of the plantations, by turning them in to middle class gated ghettos.
    The alternative was to develop traditional residential areas; the hearty of Bridgetown is now only a transactional destination, dominated by massive, useless, departmental store. I once wrote this of Cave Shepherd and one of the senior executives wrote to me condemning my attack.
    I won’t repeat my proposals for the regeneration of the City. A one off hotel, encompassing private property obtained by the state for a private developer, is not regeneration.
    Part of the problem is gross incompetence, on the one hand, and political interference. Our politicians just cannot tolerate the idea that they do not know everything and must leave somethings to the professionals.
    @William, beware of the anonymous tropes.

  18. @. Hal
    You said:
    “The creation of Warrens as a commercial town was the easy way out; they did the same with many of the plantations, by turning them in to middle class gated ghettos.
    The alternative was to develop traditional residential areas; the hearty of Bridgetown is now only a transactional destination, dominated by massive, useless, departmental store.”

    My brother we must press on. I notice there is a serious level of intolerance raising its head in the body politic. Reminds of Barrow and the Dems before they were voted out in 1976.
    A word to the wise.

  19. If Bridgetown lives or dies it will be as a result of market forces. Simple supply and demand. Nothing sinister at play here. Just the free market doing its thing.

    • If you have walked the streets of Kingston, St. Georges, Rosseau and many of the regional cities, Bridgetown is not that far behind.

  20. Probably the unforeseen upside of having “Warrens City” and the ABC Highway is that Bridgetown can now be properly developed and “rejuvenated”. Bridgetown had become ugly on the whole and basically lifeless at night. This decay has spread to Holetown and Speightstown to some extent. In a economy heavily dependent on tourism, having a “dead” capital cannot help the tourism product that is Barbados.
    At least this Govt is embarking on the Bridgetown Transformation Project less than 2 years on assuming power and after dealing with the IMF so priority is being given to rejuvenate B’town. A previous BLP govt was on a similar path re London Bourne and Country Park towers, revamping Independence Square, Jubilee Gardens, making Swan Street a pedestrian street beautifying the Careenage etc.
    Tourists generally like to go to places where there is a “hive of activity” in a country. If Bajans have lost the attraction to Bridgetown, tourists will follow suit and not go in large numbers. Hopefully the Transformation project would help bring back more economic and recreational activity in the heart of Bridgetown.

  21. “A one off hotel, encompassing private property obtained by the state for a private developer, is not regeneration.”

    Always misinformed and therefore misleading the blog. The regeneration of Bridgetown started under the Owen Arthur administration with low income housing at Pondside, with the enviable London Bourne Towers being phase 2. The Old Harbour police site was also redeveloped for commercial activity. More importantly, an urban regeneration plan was prepared, I think by Design Collaborative. Independence Square was done, Jubilee Gardens, the inner Careenage, Swan Street pedestrianised, Baxters Road upgraded, Pelican Village, a new bus terminal at Princess Alice Highway, high-rise parking and the refurbishment of Old Town Hall to mention some. There was also the $80M IDB neighbourhood upgrading programme for new and refurbished housing in Greenfields, Mason Hall Street and Cats Castle. This died under the Dems when Sinckler claimed land surveyors were scared to go into Cats Castle to work.🤔

    Fast forward to now and the new government has laid out a whole plan for Bay Street and the Pierhead, which includes more than a “one-off hotel” and more than hotels. So to make the bold statement about “one-off hotel” is just plain lies. But then again the purveyor of such untruths is an expert in everything and just vex because nobody is buying into his housing on the Transport Board site on Roebuck Street.🤣🤣🤣

  22. Oh hell Disgusting thank you. I didn’t even read your contribution before I posted mine. your contribution proves my point about the expert Hal Austin, always pontificating without facts.

  23. “The creation of Warrens as a commercial town was the easy way out; they did the same with many of the plantations, by turning them in to middle class gated ghettos.”

    More nonsense! Warrens as a “town” was created by the professionals according to NPDP. It was in response to changing transport modes, namely personal car use, human settlement patterns and the resulting need for decentralisation.

  24. I was sorry to see the ole NIS building go, even though I don’t think that it was an architectural masterpiece. I hated the fake concrete hoods over the windows.

    I was really sorry to see that Independence Square had been turned into a parking lot. That was disgraceful. I was happy to see it returned to being a public park.

    I like the Fairchild Street bus stand, but it really needs to be constantly maintained. Painting a heavily used public space every ten years is just not good enough.

    I like the public square between St. Mary’s Church and Courts.

    I hate the bus stand which is opposite to the fish market. It is ugly, does not provide adequate shelter from rain, and is badly designed without reference to pedestrians. I am always surprised that injuries to pedestrians do not occur there. In a busy bus stand pedestrians should not have to dodge traffic, with poorly marked crossings, no trafffic lights, and no signs to direct pedestrian traffic. i know that we can do better.

    I like Broad Street. I like Swan Street too. I like Bridgetown as a whole. I don’t like London. I like Paris.

    When are we going to get back our public library though? I trust that the government understands that a city without a library is not a city.

  25. @Enuff June 28, 2020 8:45 PM “…bus terminal at Princess Alice Highway.”

    The bus terminal at Princess Alice Highway is an abomination as you would know if you had used it as often as I have. I have been using a bus stand on that site since i first came to town more than 60 years ago, so I have used that space thousands of times. Trust me. The place is an abomination, actually worse that what was there before. I hate to think that somebody got paid for ugly-ing up that space.

    And when we build a new pedestrian/commuter friendly bus stand let us bury old Princess Alice, and rename the place the Rocklyn Bus Stand.

  26. @Enuff June 28, 2020 8:45 PM “…Sinckler claimed land surveyors were scared to go into Cats Castle to work.🤔”

    So why was the man some people call Big Sink speaking for the land surveyors anyhow? Couldn’t they speak for themselves. Wha’ happen? The Cat got their tongue?


  27. I liked The Waterfront Café. good food, good service, nice ambience. I especially liked eating on the outside. Going forward maybe people will appreciate the value of eating outside, on patios, verandahs, balconies etc. instead of in “air conditioned comfort”

    But whatever the stated reasons for its closure the truth is that the owner is not as young as she was 30 years ago.

    It is still a very nice location. I hope that the owner is able to sell the trade name. I expect that somebody else will buy or rent the space and a new Waterfront will rise again.

    I hope so.

  28. One of the non black groups will take over the Waterfront Cafe. With Hyatt coming into the area guess who is the most like candidate ?

  29. Kill the city over many years so that real estate prices fall. As businesses migrate away, some smart investors who engineered the migration, will purchase the land at ridiculously low prices and then start the real development of Marinas, beachfront hotels, seaside villas and fine dining restaurants. We will then join in a chorus singing how locals are being disenfranchised, how our capital city was stolen away from us and how foreign nationals are recolonizing us again. The same city that we don’t want now.

  30. @ Cuhdear Bajan June 28, 2020 11:05 PM
    “I liked The Waterfront Café. good food, good service, nice ambience. I especially liked eating on the outside. Going forward maybe people will appreciate the value of eating outside, on patios, verandahs, balconies etc. instead of in “air conditioned comfort”…”

    So do millions of ‘sophisticated’ people all over the world!

    Which people are you referring to? You can only mean those insular-minded Bajans who have big patios only as showpieces and not as their own place to dine, wine and relax.

    Millions of ‘sophisticated’ people all over the world see things quite differently.

    What you are describing is called ‘Alfresco’ eating or dining; a food/drink/entertainment’ (restaurants and bars) scene you can find all over the ‘tourism-developed world’ especially in Europe mainly in the ‘summer’ months.

    ‘Little Bridgetown’ is fast losing its looks and status as a Capital city.

    With the pending removal of the current controversial distraction called Nelson, maybe “Bridgetown, Barbados” should have a name change to ‘Bridgeport, Barbados’ to see it can be revived as a place of interest to be properly maintained and preserved if it is going to retain its UNESCO-designated status as a ‘World Heritage Site’.

    There is a good case to be made out for the retention of the Nelson statue somewhere else in Bridgetown looking out to the Carlisle Bay as part of any proposed revival of Bridgetown. Maybe it can be incorporated as a showpiece of historic value in the Hyatt Lighthouse project since both the historical connection between the lighthouses of Bim and the statue of a naval officer goes like ‘hand-in-glove’ with the ‘Vice’ Admiral’s one hand and one eye to keep watch over the denizens of Nelson Street.

  31. Greedy tourists seeing a way to rip off poor hard up tourist destinations…wonderful…stilll want the one horse racist tourism dependency product….good luck….this is of the dumb leaders own making…..ya made ya corrupt beds now lay in them….only wanted to see a bunch of tourists and never the people who look just like you……dont want to see ya own people free, progressive and wealthy so .now go kiss more tourists ass…..felicitations

    “.The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda said legal challenges from tourists arriving in the country would force health officials to change current health and safety protocols.

    According to, Prime Minister Gaston Browne revealed that several tourists are threatening legal action over the current mandatory coronavirus testing protocols upon arrival to the islands.

    Browne said that tourists who tested positive last week did not follow the mandatory quarantine orders and booked flights back to the United States the day after receiving the diagnosis.

    “Some guests are saying you don’t have the right to put anything in my nose,” Browne told”

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