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Call for Court Street culture to be tapped

Hopes of revitalisation: North East Hamilton

The unique cultural flair of Bermuda’s “back of town” should be at the heart of its revitalisation, according to area advocates.

Architect Charles Daniels called for people who visit North East Hamilton to join residents and business owners in “polishing a rough diamond”.

Meanwhile, property owner Sherma Simmons said Court Street must make the most of its Bermudian flair, saying that its food, culture and lifestyle are the envy of other parts of the city.

Both were speaking after the Department of Planning held an open house to provide insight on the future of the neighbourhood, for which a local plan is in development.

The session followed a series of workshops that Mr Daniels said have brought a wealth stream of ideas from residents and business owners. He said organisers are aiming to effect a successful revitalisation through “buy-ins” and investment from the community. The celebrated cultural landmarks, he said, are the glue of Court Street.

“All this other stuff is mortar and bricks,” he said. “When they’re adjusted they always should reflect what’s there.”

Mr Daniels told The Royal Gazette that the concerns of business owners varied depending on their experience, but that there were two standout factors: how safe they feel and where they see opportunities.

Few business owners voiced safety concerns regarding loitering and activity on Court Street, but Mr Daniels feels the people on the streets are integral to the plan.

He said: “Some feel that it’s a detriment to businesses flourishing in that area, but those on the streets are also looking for opportunities.”

He said the neglected Court Street area has been their home, adding: “They need a forum too ­— Court Street is their forum.

“Any kind of solution to Court Street is going to have to involve those who frequent the area. Any attempt of gentrification will not resolve it. There needs to be a community discussion between them and the businesses in order to work together.

“It’s a diamond that needs polishing. No matter what people think of Court Street, there are those of us who will live, love and die Court Street, for all that it’s worth.

“There’s a heart and soul in Court Street. There’s a lot of cultural value here. We’re waiting for it to become that vibrant area.”

He said that the majority of businesses are salons and takeout eateries or “transient business”, where the customer is present “no longer than an hour before you’re gone”.

Ms Simmons suggested changing legislation to allow alfresco dining licences.

The North Hamilton resident has long been a supporter of the area, making headlines last year when she protested plans to uproot 50-year-old French oak trees on Ewing Street.

“The Bermudian flair has always been in back of town. You’ll never find it on Front Street,” she said.

“The food, the culture, the lifestyle. That’s the reason Front Street is dead and Court Street is still alive.”

She too emphasised the need for community and said that the younger population are key to the country’s development. “Young people need a chance,” she said. “Your biggest problem is going to be old people who won’t get off the stage.

“That’s what your youth is for. Bermuda is not going to learn until they let the young people take over the stage.”

Michael Bradshaw owns property in Court Street and says he feels “victimised” by downtown realtors.

He said: “Bermudians hear Court Street and they hear drugs, bottle throwing and, I’m going to say it, black people — and that’s the worst word they hear.

“You are safer on Court Street than you are on Pitts Bay Road. It’s always alive.”