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Exploring the intersection of public space planning and the neoliberal thrust of tourism development in the Caribbean

Exploring the intersection of public space planning and the neoliberal thrust of tourism development in the Caribbean

by Nastassia Pratt

Nastassia Pratt

My major research paper, “Placemaking as a Public Space Planning Tool in New Providence, Bahamas,” critically explores the intersection of public space planning and the neoliberal thrust of tourism development in the Caribbean region. Small island developing states (SIDS) in the Caribbean, like The Bahamas, have the added challenge of colonial histories and legacies. Public space in the Caribbean is increasingly under the planning and organizing power of the tourism industry. The tourism sector in The Bahamas has been granted significant unofficial planning powers in lieu of explicit public space planning policy, and this is a regional phenomenon.

“Old man on a porch at Potter’s Cay”, watercolour on paper, 2023.

This paper not only historicizes the regional and national forces of control impacting public space planning, but it also presents the case study of a local space as a potential touchstone for understanding (and considering) everyday Bahamian placemaking as an instrument in public space planning.

Locally activated public spaces, such as the Potter’s Cay commercial area in New Providence, de-centers tourism and resist its spatialization forces in The Bahamas. This informal waterfront public space was formed beyond the direct influence of tourism development and the “spatialization of race” (and racialization of space) that generally follows its projects.

Conch Vendor’s Stall at Potter’s Cay”, watercolour sketch on paper, 2023.

Despite the absence of formal national public space planning policy and development, this marketspace continues to be a vibrant one that is consistently occupied and animated by black Bahamians and businesses. A literature review revealed a need to understand the full story of informal public spaces like Potter’s Cay to identify the complex histories and present impacts of development, the tourism industry, and local planning policy and development processes. Research also revealed that state and local community viewpoints on Potter’s Cay differ concerning its social practice, roots of spatial injustices, and cultural value.

In addition to a case study and interviews, an observational study of Potter’s Cay and several watercolour paintings have rendered the complex transformation(s) of the area, its spatial injustices, its community and users, the ongoing placemaking happening in the area, and its layered Bahamian social space as these currently exist.

Produce vendor at Potter’s Cay”, watercolour on paper, 2023.

I found that watercolours explained the everyday placemaking and social space at Potter’s Cay in ways that a photograph or words could not. Through this research I discovered that public space planning that centres the lived experiences and needs of local Bahamians, like the Potter’s Cay community, is a more appropriate and relevant touchstone for Bahamian planning policy - planning policy that centres local community and their unique social production in creating a more vibrant and just public realm.

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Nastassia Pratt is a researcher and watercolour artist. She is a master of environmental studies planning graduate (2023) at York University with a bachelor's degree in architectural science from Toronto Metropolitan University.

Tourists at Potter’s Cay”, watercolour sketch on paper, 2023.

She has worked in the museum sector for over four years with the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB) and has had several solo exhibitions of her watercolours in The Bahamas including The Architecture of Community (The D’Aguilar Art Foundation, 2020) and Dwell II (Doongalik Art Gallery & Studios, 2015). She has published a paper on The Responsibility of Community Sustainability from the Frontlines of Climate Change in The International Journal of Bahamian Studies (2021).

Pratt is one of CERLAC's Michael Baptista Essay Prize Awardees in 2023. Her paper on Placemaking as a Public Space Planning Tool in New Providence, Bahamas critically investigated the emergence of tourism development as strategy and the instrumentalization of the industry for planning public space. Her research rendered the public life of Potter’s Cay and provided a touchstone for public space planning in The Bahamas that centers locals in creating a more vibrant and just public realm.

The Michael Baptista Essay Prize is awarded annually to both a graduate and an undergraduate student at York University in recognition of their outstanding scholarly essay of relevance to the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies from the humanities, social science, business or legal perspective.

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