By JADE RUSSELL
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Chester Cooper said yesterday a Bill will be brought to Parliament for the Downtown Management Authority.
Last month Parliament was prorogued to October 4th of this year. However, Mr Cooper during an Office of the Prime Minister press briefing, said the Bill will be presented once Parliament resumes.
“In terms of Downtown, we are going to bring a bill to Parliament for the Downtown Management Authority once Parliament reopens,” Mr Cooper told reporters.
Mr Cooper said officials are hoping the authority will be allocated funding to operate, however, that would be a decision for Cabinet to make.
“Downtown has always been loosely managed by the stakeholders, the downtown partnership and they’ve had some great plans over the decades,” he said. “We are drawing on some of those plans. The reality of it is that there has to be some authority with some teeth to bring focus and bring back the old charm of downtown Nassau. Nassau reimagined as we call it. We’re hoping that this body will in fact be allocated some funding that’s a matter for the Cabinet to determine.”
“But there’s opportunity perhaps through the tourism development fund levy there will be an opportunity for the overall management of downtown through this authority. Anticipate that perhaps the revitalisation unit of the Ministry of Tourism will morph into this authority.”
The authority will manage downtown car parking, upkeep facilities, manage derelict buildings, and encourage stakeholders to upkeep storefronts.
Meanwhile, the lack of car parking in the downtown area has been a long-standing issue throughout successive administrations. Senator Randy Rolle, Ministry of Tourism, Investment and Aviation’s global relations consultant recently revealed to Tribune Business that the ministry has proposals in its possession for a car park for downtown Bay Street.
When asked about the proposed car park, Mr Cooper said his ministry is looking into the proposals.
“There are people who are interested in addressing the parking issues downtown, there are proposals,” Mr Cooper said. “Some of it is on private property and we encourage entrepreneurship. The revitalisation unit will be looking at parking opportunities and alternatives for downtown. Working along with entrepreneurs we have launched a valet service that I understand is working extremely well. So, we hope that retailers shopping comes back to downtown in a big way for residents.”
He added: “We are already experiencing some growth since the opening of the Nassau cruise port. Certainly, I’m happy to tell you that our guests are not staying in the Nassau cruise port facility they’re coming out. We have several gates that have been reopened and the store owners on Bay Street are seeing moderate growth.”
Mr Cooper also signalled an intent to ease access for visitors to the country. He said: “We plan to make it easier for visitors and Bahamians to legitimately enter The Bahamas with an electronic immigration declaration form. We expect an Act of Parliament early in the new session to permit this.”
The revitalisation of downtown has been a priority of the Davis administration. Mr Cooper noted that more than six buildings were demolished downtown, adding there are plans for east of East Street as well.
In terms, of efforts for the drainage systems downtown work is being done to help with flooding and to solve the issue long-term.