Challenges ahead for GT facelift

| 21/10/2015 | 54 Comments
Cayman News Service

George Town, Grand Cayman

(CNS): The rejuvenation of the country’s capital will present a number of challenges for the government because of how it has developed over the years, with the way infrastructure for the utilities has been installed, unattractive buildings, a lack of trees and shade, and a patchwork of roads, consultants revealed in a presentation to the public Tuesday night. Consultant and former planning director, Kenneth Ebanks, told a sizable audience about plans to revamp the streets of George Town and bring it back to life.

Well over 100 people attended the meeting in the George Town Town Hall to learn about plans for the urban regeneration, however the proposals are still in the conceptual stage. The goal is for government to fund the cost of upgrades to the infrastructure and to change the law to facilitate mixed-use, while hoping that private sector developers will invest in aesthetically pleasing new projects.

But after what appears to be years of ad hoc and uncoordinated development, the capital has emerged into a mismatched patchwork of buildings that are often unattractive, with no trees and an underground tumble of utilities infrastructure that cannot easily be moved. Ebanks warned that government would probably have to relocate some historic buildings and demolish others, compensating owners.

The early conceptual ideas, however, include paving over parts of the downtown area to create pedestrian-only areas, improving the connectivity of areas of the capital and introducing much more shade with covered walkways and trees. Ebanks explained that the goal was to bring George Town back to life by making it more attractive and more accessible, attracting residents with changes to the planning laws and organizing leisure activities and a set schedule of public events.

He explained more would be made of historic places and the local culture celebrated. Both the former Tower building site and the current Glass House site will become green spaces but there are plans to plant trees where possible, given the underground and overhead utility infrastructure.

The legacy issues of poor planning appear to present a daunting and costly task and the revamp will not be easy, especially set against a backdrop of uncertainty regarding the proposed cruise port development and the lack of committed private sector investors so far. But the consultants spoke about the need to improve the aesthetics for visitors and create a friendlier, welcoming and attractive capital for tourists where local residents could live and work as well.

Angela Martins, a one-time director of tourism, pointed out that the rejuvenation of the capital had to be supported by local people and if George Town became somewhere that Caymanians, and especially young Caymanians, thought was “awesome”, then visitors would as well.

Alongside a public survey, the consultants will be collecting more ideas about the future of the capital through various stakeholder meetings and public discussions over the coming weeks.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (54)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Elmslie Church vs Margaritaville. Historic and lovely vs awful and tacky.

    So endeth the lesson……….

  2. Anonymous says:

    We need some people with vision to truly look into this. What have we got at the moment is someone who thinks it acceptable to close a main road in the town centre every week to put out half a dozen tables advertising Pepsi Cola, offering tattoos from India and competing with the food establishments all ready struggling. This really is a monumental embarrassment as to what Grand Cayman has to offer now and I hope we can do better in the future. Like who thought it was a good idea to paint the railings along the waterfront dark brown? Luckily someone saw the light and re-painted then a slightly better blue!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Forget “awesome”. Have a more realistic target. Like “not totally crap”.

  4. SKEPTICAL says:

    Should have said in respect of eateries with the exception of perhaps Casanova’s and Lobster Pot – apols.

  5. SKEPTICAL says:

    The horse is already out of the stable, down the street, up the West Bay Road, and grazing in Camana Bay. This development would only be for cruise ship passengers, who are here for maybe 8 hours. The shrinking number of office workers in GT, ( more and more moving to Camana Bay), are behind their desks most of the day. Why would stay over visitors go downtown during the day – there is nothing for them there. Why be jostled by cruise ship passengers when you can relax on the beach. And equally why go there at night – to look in unlit Duty Free shop windows? There are no top end eateries. In the evening, there is an endless selection of bars/restaurants on West Bay Road within walking distance of their condos/hotels. The whole idea is very much a case of – ” let’s try and put some lipstick on this pig “.

  6. Rp says:

    Just get Dart’s companies to fix it up properly.

    The waterfront should look like the paseo in CB. Restaurants spilling on the street, trees, benches, events, shade, boutique shops, bed and breakfasts or 3 story cayman style hotels.

    Throw a high end casino in there as well. That way we can make more than 100 bucks per cruise shipper.

    Waterfront should be pedestrian only during the day. Deliveries and truck traffic from 1am to 6am only. I don’t know how many times I sat outside at breezes to have a meal and all I could smell was truck fumes.

    Too many jewelry and worthless souvenir stores. Use planning to control the types of retail businesses just like Dart did in CB to provide variety. A mini supermarket would draw people.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I believe this is a good idea, but there are more pressing issues like the dump. That has poor planning and negligence stamped all over it. Use the money designated for this project and look at what came done for the dump.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Polishing a turd.

  9. Anonymous says:

    lets talk about planning to hire consulatants who can develop a stragey of future consultation with all relevant parties……..
    its the ppm way!

  10. Anonymous says:

    the usual ppm guff….. slow road to nowhere….

  11. Anonymous says:

    The meeting was an absolute joke! Before even dreaming of revitalizing GT they need to start by revitalizing the team. Mr Ebanks put on a pitiful and most amateur presentation. Not to mention an advertised start time of 5.30pm only to rush there in the traffic, to be advised that it actually starts at 6.15pm.

    The concept is glorious and much needed, one that should however not be headed by the very person who sat on the planning board and was instrumental in creating the current situation. No doubt much time and money has been spent on this plan, a plan that does not make a single reference to the port, current or future! This is not the time to discuss the pros and cons of the port, larger cruise ships or not. A plan for an expanded port has to go ahead, it is the umbilical cord of this island and inlet for all our supplies, crucial to the very existence of the Island. The roads are already congested, traffic is beyond horrific and with an expanded port comes more traffic. The plan did not address the transportation of containers to the distribution depot and the movement of large, heavy, noisy, air polluting, unsafe trucks in the new GT, which is to feature a large fountain in the center, statues, shaded walkways, tree lined streets home to boutiques, pavement cafes and restaurants.

    Go back to the drawing board, include the port and the airport in the plan, use professional and knowledgeable resources in the private sector, confer with CUC, Water Authority most importantly ensure that all the relevant government departments are consulted and united on the plan, especially the NRA to create a safe and beautiful GT for us and future generations to enjoy.

    Not a single MLA at the meeting…

  12. JTB says:

    So long as every unit in town gets turned into a store selling jewellry, perfume or tourist tat and t-shirts, George Town will continue to be a ghost town whenever the cruise ships are not in port.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The article is not completely accurate. And perhaps people should attend the meetings and complete the survey. A lot of the issues stated here were discussed. They are very much at a “advice and suggestions welcome” stage, so please provide your feedback and meaningful suggestions directly to the consultants. They were contracted by the government, so there’s nothing we can do about the fact that they are not REALLY independent consultants given their history. Further, it doesn’t hurt to remind you that the Planning Dept is not those who make the calls on large projects such as this or the major errors in infrastructure in the past; it reviews policy and provides suggestions on whether or not to go ahead with the project, presenting their findings to the Central Planning Authority…who historically has not always taken that advice and has approved major projects despite suggestions made by the department.

    The historic buildings will not be moved. They were suggesting that there be more focus on cultural and historic sites by making them more focal and pleasant. They also addressed parking with three multistory parking garages and also the possibility of a tram service that would run through. Again, this was all conceptual and open to comment.

    They’ll be meeting with industry professionals, architects and major property owners in the area in the coming weeks/months but they do have an e-mail address to which they will accept feedback and also streetscape renderings should you have the ability to provide them. They also said their website would be updated with more information – the proposed maps…etc.. but I don’t think this is updated at the moment.

    Hopefully someone reading this can provide a link to the online survey and also the e-mail address that was provided last night. They need all the help they can get!

  14. Justinidea says:

    Donate the whole thing as part of a deal with dart to take care of dump as well. 2 things taken care of at the same time, at no cost. Who knows with a little negotiations, we could actually get a cut from his profit, and make something from it, instead of putting the country in hundreds of millions of debt.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Facelift = Bandaid!

    The infrastructure in and around GT needs to be thought through properly! Waste water/sewage treatment, underground electric cables etc. Just planting a few trees and painting buildings pretty isn’t going to cut it!

    First thing – move that old and dilapidated building called Court House to the Glasshouse site! A more perfect space couldn’t be found as it sits between the police stations and government building! Don’t even think about putting a park there………

    BUT considering that the Gov is hell-bend on revamping the airport and building a cruise ship dock at the same time, I just wonder where all the funding is supposed to come from..

    • Anonymous says:

      There are only two ways to go with this for a successful GT gentrification. It is a extremely expensive and usually more work then it’s worth to try and meld old and new. The most efficient way to undergo this type of project is to clean up GT as much as possible. Remove all the government functions from the town. Use any vacated buildings for your tourist trade. Bars, restaurants, souvenirs, restaurants and other tourist attractions can share these and the city gets the rent. Public restrooms will need to be built and tied into a new sewer infrastructure.
      Now build your own municipal complex and tie tha into new sewer, electrical and communications. With this provide parking, a financial center and general office and professional complex. Congratulations you now have old and new GT. With a city income stream for rental of old buildings and rest center charges.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Poor old George Town’s unfortunate history and poor development is neatly encapsulated by one heinous act: our National Hero J M Bodden personally drove the bulldozer that knocked down one of our most significant heritage sites, Fort George. For that, he gets a statue not far from the site he destroyed in such a callous wanton manner. Tragic.

    • JCB says:

      Get your facts straight. It was a backhoe!

    • Anonymous says:

      The really despicable part of all that is that if you google Fort George and try to find out about it there are NO references to our National Hero’s hideous actions, just vague comments about “developers knocking it down”. Typical cover up and denial of the truth followed by the erection of a statue.

  17. Anonymous says:

    CIG needs to make sure they don’t take the courts out of central GT.
    If they do that they will really put the final nail in the capital’s coffin.

    • Dan Brown says:

      But would significantly improve the court infrastructure and ability to do business. The revenue generated by litigation being conducted here is substantial, but the creaky infrastructure is frankly embarrassing for a supposed first class financial sector.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Relocation of historic buildings: what, real history got in the way of your plans for revisionist history?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Unless they get the port project going all of this is a waste of time. There will be no George Town if there is no dock.

    • Chicken Kirklittle says:

      The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

    • Rp says:

      There is no cruise port in CAmana Bay and it looks pretty lively to me. You don’t need a port, you just need to put some thought into it. Dart started with a vision “live, work, play” or whatever it was and developed to achieve that vision.

      Gov on the other side had no vision when they approved the GT development. …and they still seem to not have one.That’s the problem!

      That’s why GT is dead, the trash is piling nice and high, the sewer system sucks, gov is in debt, pension liabilities underfunded, courts and prison not adequate etc.

      No thought and no vision for the future. We just react to problems we encounter and keep band aiding them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Take your port demo elsewhere we are sick of you and your cronies. This is about GT for all of us, not just your cruise ship tourists!

  20. Just Sayin' says:

    Chicago 1871 and London 1666 would be good places to start looking for suggestions on how to proceed.

  21. The Prodigy says:

    I know how to help.

  22. GG says:

    Change is good but we must preserve and cherish as much of our historic (old) buildings as possible. What may be “awesome” to some young people; who tend to go with the current norms may not be as appealing to others; like the tourists we are trying to arrtact. Over the years there has been many articles from repeat visitors and residents of our islands that have all had one thing in common to say “our islands have lost much of what attracted them here in the first instance – our rich heritage!”. Also there are many of us who would like to not only share memories of our childhood with our youth; such as the places we used to visit, the way things used to look in George Town or throughout the island but to actually have them witness some, if not most of these things for themselves.

    Preserving historic buildings is vital to understanding our islands’ heritage. In addition, it is an environmentally responsible practice. By reusing existing buildings historic preservation is essentially a recycling program of ‘historic’ proportions. Existing buildings can often be energy efficient through their use of good ventilation, durable materials, and spatial relationships. An immediate advantage of older buildings is that a building already exists; therefore energy is not necessary to demolish a building or create new building materials and the infrastructure may already be in place. Minor modifications can be made to adapt existing buildings to compatible new uses. Systems can be upgraded to meet modern building requirements and codes. This not only makes good economic sense, but preserves our legacy and is an inherently sustainable practice and an intrinsic component of whole building design. Perhaps an extensive review of our infrastructure is needed in order to develop better furture planning for an occasion such as this; foresight is better than hindsight. Might save us the expense, inconvenience and aesthetically unpleasing patchwork roads.

    There are other small islands that have developed as The Cayman Islands have but have managed to make it a top priority to preserve as much of their heritage possible. Bermuda being one of such islands. I was fortunate enough to emerse myself into their society for three years and what a nostalgic adventure it was. So alike our beautiful islands in many ways with their very successful financial services and tourism industries but mainly for the experience of their very rich and vibrant hertiage; from the preservation of their historic sites, buildings and cultural community/ family events, fewer vehicles (more ‘bikes’ scooters) and environmentally friendly ‘green’ approach. It took me back to when I was a child growing up in Grand Cayman – priceless!

    I just ask the powers that be, the investors and most of all our community to please, please let us not in the spirit of modernization, grwoth and development, let go of preserving as much of our heritage as we possibly can. The love and preservation of our Islands should always be the driving force of our decisions!

    “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
    – 2 Corinthians 4:16

  23. Anonymous says:

    As the former Director of Planning who sat by and did nothing about reviewing the Development Plan I wonder who Mr Ebanks blames for the “ad hoc and uncoordinated development” and the lack of trees?

    He is indeed a bold man to suggest that historic buildings would have to be moved as I can only think of five and they are the nicest looking buildings in town.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t worry folks the only thing that will come out of this exercise is the ‘consultants’
      (better known as modern day bandits) will be paid a huge consultancy fee for naught, much like they have already received for poor performance over the years.
      For any type of planning to happen here, the Government would have to acquire all the affected property and fund the developments, as there are no laws in place to tell landowners what to do with their private property. Please don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

      • Anonymous says:

        Issues with private property, public property, and infrastructure in urban revitilization is not unique to Cayman. As much as I support Caymanian employment, this is a case where consultants with appropriate experience should be handling the process. There are some excellent firms with established results in urban renewal out there, but they are not based in Cayman.

  24. Anonymous says:

    So where will additional parking be located? This plan should include sufficient parking areas on the outskirts (at least) and perhaps some in the heart of GT, such as the said Tower building site or Glass House site.

    And this will all be done while trying to afford a major port re-development project? Which BTW does not appear to be factored into this “facelift” proposal, for some reason. Backwards planning? Let’s see how this materializes.

    • Cass says:

      PPM builds parks not parking lots….which makes no sense.

      Referendum to have the glass house turned into a 5 story parking lot or more would be real nice right about now….people would even pay their parking fee gladly to find a spot everyday. CI$2.50 per day?

    • Anonymous says:

      A multi-story carpark behind the library would be a start

  25. Anonymous says:

    We need to see a plan of exactly which roads will be pedestrianized and which new roads will be built and which existing roads enhanced, to compensate.

  26. Anonymous says:

    And since when did the former director of planning become a “consultant” ?
    This is not a job for unqualified civil servants.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Great Idea. Taller buildings, retail on bottom with condos on top offering attractive views of GT harbor. Boutique styled cafe’s and some high-end retailers. Sort of like a mini New York.

    All aimed at attracting young professionals. Throw in 2 new green spaces that can be used for events, winner winner chicken dinner.

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