Warrens has tranformed our approach to commerce
Warrens. Think about it. It’s not Warrens City or Town. And definitely not Industrial Area, because we already have one of those, now quite eclipsed by just “Warrens”
Modern-day Warrens developed probably because it became an important junction when the ABC Highway opened over 30 years ago (yes, it has been a long time in the making). A far-sighted auto dealership built their headquarters there and Shell bought a piece of land opposite and put in a service station. An equally far-sighted Chefette built an outlet there as well.
My timelines are probably all wrong but then you don’t read this column for a history lesson. The point that came home to me as I looked for a parking space last week in the parking lot of the newest Warrens “tower” - appropriately emblazoned at the top with “Barbados” in the BTMI’s distinctive logo - was this: We are in the middle of former cane fields, and these particular cane fields are high up on a central plain that is pretty far from the coast.
That is because Warrens epitomises our move from an agricultural and wannabe light industrial economy to an all-out service economy. Which is why the HQ of our lead marketing agency is there, proclaiming the new Barbados from the top of a local “skyscraper”.
All our other commercial hubs, handed down from the bygone era of King Sugar, are on the coast. Holetown, because it had a small bay or inlet where small boats could come shoreside and originally called The Hole; its early rival Bridgetown, with a much bigger inlet where the larger vessels could be turned on their sides and de-barnacled; and Oistins and Speighstown, which, as far as I know, did not have significant inlets, but still had to be on the coast to facilitate shipping.
I say inlets but Holetown and Bridgetown were really outlets for rainfall coming down the hills and fields inland and heading out to sea. Instead of tourism today, the main export back then was sugar and molasses, which of course needed coastal towns.
But back to Warrens: The other thing I find curious about Warrens is that it is not a place you can walk around just like that. You have to drive, making it very American in that sense. It is so hot nowadays that I even drive from the Dome Mall to Super Centre, which are only separated by a common parking lot. Probably just me.
If we had not lost an entire decade of growth and development thanks to the lazy Dolittle crew, I think there would be even more going on at Warrens today, but it is coming along steadily and its commercial influence has now pushed north as far as Welches, St. Thomas, where a mini-Warrens has sprung up in the Walk shopping centre and two large corporate buildings opposite.
Of course, Warrens has its eyesores, mainly in the form of the ugliest office building ever created in Barbados, the controversy over which provided a good few nails in the coffin of the Owen Arthur administration.
The piecemeal development over the years has also made each of the public centres there something of standalone entities. It is not a mall, although it has a small one. There is also a lot more space for office buildings and retail centres, so I expect developers to fill in those empty lots at Warrens in coming years.
It is therefore no surprise that the most significant retail project - both in terms of size and the fact that it is being built by a Dutch firm - to be built in Barbados in perhaps decades is the Kooyman complex at Kendal Hill. This project will cost over US$40 million and does not include any office buildings or hotels. Kendal Hill is, like Warrens, inland at the junction of the ABC Highway with another road (well, Kendal Hill).
We already have a large Rubis station opposite, and a huge Popular discount supermarket next to that. There is so much open space next to Kooyman and also opposite that the possibilities of another inland commerical centre on a huge scale for Barbados, anchored by these three entities, could emerge. I see this as being much more retail-focussed while I would not be surprised if most of Warrens development in the future will be in office towers.
And like Warrens, you won’t be able to walk around to everything; you will need a vehicle.The Kooyman complex, in fact, will feature a “drive-in, drive out” warehouse where you can actually take your vehicle inside and stock up on what you want, then pay before exiting the building.
In fact, with Warrens so congested these days, I would not be surprised if, based on Kooyman’s expected and Popular’s proven success, Kendal Hill becomes the next big retail centre in Barbados in just a few years. Assuming we don’t lose another decade to fiddling.