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$2 mil. upgrade for Festival Place

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 18, 2013

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The government will spend just over $2 million to upgrade Festival Place at the Port of Nassau, which will force a temporary closure of the facility, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe revealed yesterday.

“Right now, we are preparing to do the roof work and that should begin at the end of the month,” Wilchcombe said as reporters toured the Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) ship Breakaway, which made its maiden voyage to The Bahamas yesterday. “It will continue for about a nine-month period because we will cause refurbishment generally.”

According to Wilchcombe, there are a number of issues that impact the facility, including space limitations.

“Right now, it's just too small,” he said. “It's too tight. We've got to broaden it a bit and create greater appeal. So for that to work we have to shut it down. We've got to look at the stores that we have inside. We have to extend it farther to the other warehouse to give more shopping space. And, of course, it has to be uniquely Bahamian.”

In the next two weeks, all businesses and services that currently reside in that building will be moved outside the facility.

It’s unclear how long the facility will be closed. However, Wilchcombe said vendors will not be out of work.

He said the ministry is going to set up colorful cabanas along the wharf to temporarily house the vendors.

At the end of the day, he said Festival Place will be transformed into what it was originally designed to be.

“We want the place to be festival place,” he said. “You can’t have a festival place, and it’s dead. It's got to be Festival Place with a lot of life.

“We want visitors to see this excitement and this fun... Let’s make it a festival. It's got to be jamming.”

Several vendors said yesterday that they are happy about the upgrades. However, some are concerned about the length of time they will be out of the facility.

In February 2014, the Getaway, the Breakaway’s sister ship, will have a year-round Miami/Nassau itinerary.  Two more ships, the Escape and Bliss, in NCL’s fleet, which will be delivered in 2015 and 2017, are also expected to add The Bahamas to their  itinerary.

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