The island’s waterfront is transforming, but what does a changing Nassau mean for boaters?
The contours across the coast and the skyline of the historic city of Nassau will completely reshape itself in three to five years. In 10 years, Nassau’s long-awaited renaissance will be self-evident. Three private sector developments are currently underway: The Nassau Cruise Port, the Downtown Nassau Boardwalk and The Pointe Residences and Resort Development. If all goes as planned, this changing Nassau will inject more than $500 million into the city.
It’s been a common lament that Nassau fails to live up to its potential as a city, notwithstanding the fact that downtown Nassau attracts over three million cruise passengers to its shores annually. At night, restaurants close and the city falls silent, with the exception of a few bars and clubs that struggle to attract a substantial number of Bahamians and visitors—cruise ships very rarely stay overnight.
Unlike most major cities around the world, Nassau has no waterfront residences or commercial conveniences necessary to make a livable space. In recent times, the Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP) and Creative Nassau have been pushing the revival agenda forward. Creative Nassau led the effort to have UNESCO designate Nassau a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts. The DNP led the $1.5 million upgrade of Pompey Square in 2013, a recreational hotspot, and continues to be responsible for its maintenance and other downtown operations.
For over 15 years, the dream of a downtown renaissance has eluded Bahamians. Interested parties have watched development plan after development plan linger and
languish only to end up in a black hole. Could it be that the wait is finally over? At least three major, privately funded developments are set to transform downtown Nassau.
Nassau Cruise Port
Global Ports Holding, one of the world’s largest international cruise port operators, won the bid to redevelop and run the Prince George Wharf and related areas at the Nassau Cruise Port. The $250 million development anticipates completion in 2022 when downtown Nassau is expected to transform into a modern, world-class port, waterfront and entertainment venue.
The winning consortium will have a 25-year concession at Prince George Wharf, taking over operations from a government agency. The new facility will include more berths,
a new iconic terminal building with LED digital signage, open-air restaurants and kiosks for vendors, and an open-air walkway with functional sculptures that provide shade by day and illuminated light art by night.
Cultural activists have long sought a prominent location for a Junkanoo museum to showcase the history and culture of The Bahamas. The new port will house the museum with its own multimedia exhibits along with an open-air amphitheater equipped to host local and international concerts, shows and special events.
“We believe that the redeveloped cruise port will be the catalyst for the turnaround of the downtown area,” says Anthony Ferguson, president of Colina Financial Advisors Ltd. “It will be the impetus to move things forward in terms of finally getting a downtown that will attract nightlife, more businesses and, hopefully, condominium developments.”
Nassau Cruise Port Ltd. will form as a special purpose vehicle to manage the port with Global Ports Holding controlling 49 percent of its equity. The Bahamas Investment Fund, a vehicle that will pool investments from thousands of Bahamians, will hold 49 percent, and the YES Foundation, established to fund youth, educational and sporting activities will control the remaining two percent. “The most important part of the whole development is to bring in the citizens having the ability to participate in the development and the activities and business opportunities,” says Ferguson. “That is fundamental to our proposal. It is not just developing the cruise port, but it is also developing the other areas that would attract Bahamians and cruisers alike.”
When the downtown boardwalk is complete, the experience of the Nassau Harbour will be equally as grand from the land as from the sea. The boating community has long favored the Nassau Harbour, and the boardwalk intends to make Nassau’s waterfront a vibrant social space with restaurants and access to retail. The 12-foot-wide boardwalk will run from the edge of the Cruise Port to Potter’s Cay Dock.
Earlier this year, the DNP received the needed go-ahead from the government for the project to proceed. Several parts of the boardwalk have already been developed behind privately owned properties, but linking the entire stretch required permission to traverse three government properties.
Of all the developments in progress, The Pointe is the furthest along. The $250 million project includes luxury residences, marina, mixed-use plaza, and resort. Located next to the British Colonial Hilton, the seven-story parking garage has opened up 900 new parking spots, helping to address a critical infrastructure problem downtown. Seven, an office and retail building is now open and includes a movie theater, bowling alley, and a virtual reality games room.
The Pointe’s 126 luxury oceanfront condos are on the market for sale. Construction continues on the luxury marina residences of One Particular Harbour. The 45-slip, deep-water marina and yacht club can accommodate yachts up to 150 feet and will connect to a mixed-use outdoor plaza that features a winding boardwalk, retail shopping, restaurants, and other amenities. The Margaritaville Beach Resort and Waterpark will offer 150 rooms, eight restaurants, including a rooftop restaurant. The Pointe is expected to open spring 2020. Its towering structures have already reshaped Bay Street.
There are a number of other projects happening in tandem with these developments. Those include the relocation and redesign of The Bahamas Central Bank and the development of a “Central Park.” Downtown Nassau is shaping up its skyline in a magnificent way.
By Noelle Nicolls, Southern Boating May 2019