Terrance Gape: The Bridge to nowhere
By Terence Gape
May 6, 2016 - 11:06:19 AM
We are this week celebrating the opening of the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge which represents a $4.3 million investment by the families and Hutchison (DevCo) to the infrastructure of Freeport and provides access over the Grand Lucayan Waterway to the eastern two-thirds of the Island, which access had primarily been provided these past 50 years by the Casuarina Bridge, a five-minute detour from the new Sir Jack Hayward Bridge.
The eastern two-thirds of Grand Bahama have changed little in the past 60 years with a population of 4,500 (approximately) in five quiet settlements stretching from New Freetown to Sweetings Cay.
Sir Jack justified his five-year campaign (with Hutchison?) to have this bridge built because he said the Casuarina Bridge was old and weak and could fall down and he was concerned that the poor “blighters” who lived over there would have to swim across to get to Freeport, or (as some believe) was it to reward his construction friend with a multi-million-dollar contract?
These could, admittedly, have been the only real reasons he could have been concerned, because for the 40 years he directly controlled the economic future of the property east of the Grand Lucayan Waterway, there has been nil development of this vast beautiful expanse of property, which includes some 10 miles of pristine real estate begging for high-end beachfront development already with roads and electrical hook-up easily accessible.
I have previously and continue to describe the 10 miles of beachfront – Discovery Bay, Barbary Beach, Sharp Rocks and Old Freetown Beach, comprising some 6,000 acres – as the most beautiful acreage in The Bahamas all undiscovered by the international investor world and all without a “block on block” or without a shovel in the ground these past 40 years.
Now if Sir Jack had “married” the construction of his bridge to nowhere in conjunction with a dedicated marketing program to entice and welcome developers to Barbary Beach etc., then this would have been something. Such a marketing program, even though mandated by the 1992 statute, did not then exist nor does it now. Hence the “Forgotten Island” moniker I have used in my previous writings (see http://calltoactionfreeport.com).
Ever since I started my Call to Action series in 2012, I have noted that the real estate and touristic economy in Freeport had been declining drastically. I can now confirm that the real estate market in Freeport has collapsed with devastating results for all residential property owners (Bahamian and investor alike). The number of Bahamian families left without electricity and suffering the loss of their homes in this collapsed economy is alarming.
The bridge money could have been much better spent to entice an investor who would have himself paid for the bridge perhaps at the end of Midshipman Road across the waterway (as Bobby Ginn had proposed to do in 2003). Instead, the Grand Bahama residents and Bahamians now have a new bridge to come over to the same desolate pine barren as existed before the port area was established.
Can you imagine if a million dollars a year were spent professionally marketing Barbary Beach for four years? We would now have had a major resort developer in place, hundreds of jobs and the need for the bridge fully established. (Don’t scoff at this marketing number: How much do you think Albany, Baker’s Bay and Ocean Club Estates spent marketing until fully established?)
My arguments in support of marketing Freeport and Grand Bahama to international investors are well known and as a marked example of what this lack of marketing has produced for Freeport is the result that we have not had a single new investor to Freeport in the past 12 years. Contrast this with Great Exuma, Elizabeth Harbour and the Exuma Cays, which have recently commenced or about to commence five resort projects of over $150 million each, all without the benefit of the infrastructure and the tax concessions enjoyed by the port area and its vested owners these past 50 years.
To summarize, I can only assume that Sir Jack’s desire to build the bridge was to create a personal monument, but one which will hopefully serve future investors and future growth of population in the east (there are two new developments about to get underway, both outside the port area) and to reward the general contractor, with whom he enjoyed a then personal relationship.
We must be thankful.
– Terence Gape
Sir Jack Hayward remembered at Bridge Opening in Grand Bahama
Remarks by Prime Minister Christie at the Opening of the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge, Grand Bahama
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