Historic public building too costly to save

| 23/10/2015 | 31 Comments
Cayman News Service

Glass House, George Town

(CNS): The planning minister has said that it would be too costly to preserve the Glass House, and the former government headquarters will be torn down. Answering a question from the opposition leader about the iconic 1970s building, Kurt Tibbetts told members of the Legislative Assembly that several reports and reviews of the Glass House had concluded it would be both challenging and more expensive to renovate the building than demolish it and build equivalent office space.

The building, which stands on around one acre of land, is earmarked to become a park in the George Town regeneration project, while the property that houses the neighboring police station and old vehicle licensing and inspection site is scheduled to be sold.

But Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller both queried why its historic value was not being considered and efforts being made to preserve the 45-year-old building, which was the first all glass and aluminum building in the region.

Bush said that despite the challenges and renovation costs, it was possible to quantify the value of the Glass House as a building of historic importance, spend time renovating the property and then use it. He said that too much had been lost in George Town already and with hardly anything left of the country’s history, government could do something to preserve the historic site.

Tibbetts said that the glasshouse was a very inefficient building by modern-day standards. “It would cost more to refurbish it to an acceptable standard than it would to demolish it and provide equivalent space in a new purpose-built facility,” he said.

As well as a very inefficient layout, resulting in 28% of the floor area lost to service areas, code violations, energy inefficiencies with bills six times that of a modern building, the minister said it was also structurally unsound, making it difficult and expensive to fix. A 2006 report estimated that the cost to renovate the glasshouse would be $9.6 million, which was $2.69 million more than to provide the equivalent usable space in the new Government Administration Building.

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Category: Government Finance, Politics

Comments (31)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Would someone please try to get it across to mckeewa that he really shouldnt be opposing the Government for the sake of opposing the government in total and blissful disregard for whattever his stupidity may cost the people of this country?

  2. Anonymous says:

    The glass house is indeed historic. It has a history of housing the worst Premier in history for thirty years.

    • Anonymous says:

      I did not realize Alden had actually taken up office at the Glass House.

    • Anonymous says:

      The irony is that the quality of our Governors has declined markedly ever since they abandoned the Glass House.

      You may recall that Stuart Jack decided the Glass House was not up to his standards and hightailed it to a rental office on Smith Road.

      Jack was the worst Governor ever inflicted on us. Taylor was not much better, despite his man of the people pretense. Kilpatrick is off to a feeble start two years in but still has time to do something positive for Cayman.

      It does the UK no good at all to keep sending flunkies. Cayman is an important cog in the financial success of the City (i.e. London) and the FCO should be a good deal more solicitous of that important truth.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The government does not need to incur any more expense here. Sell it and let the private sector get on with it…and please don’t give away too many concessions. It is disrespectful to those who have no relief.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Funny how Bush wants to keep this building and was hell bent on selling our beautiful new one.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman has no one on earth to blame if we are not learning more every single day of the magnitude of Bush’s illogical irresponsibility and the extent of his total incapacity to serve this country in any sensible manner whatsoever.

    • Anonymous says:

      It would be funny indeed if it weren’t so sick.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Code violations? By that I presume the Hon Minister means the use of unsafe materials that represent a health hazard to not only the workers that used to occupy the building but also the demolition workers who will tear it down. I just hope that, unlike with the Tower Building, there’s a comprehensive risk assessment of this site before they start work.

  6. Sam Putt Putt says:

    Just because something is old doesn’t necessarily make it historically significant. Perhaps the Glass House was Government’s idea at the time of demonstrating the Cayman Islands emergence from complete obscurity to a modern offshore financial center by aping the large metropolitan glass and steel skyscrapers being constructed in big cities. As a result, the Glass House as no traditional Caymanian architectural forms and in my opinion, no redeeming aesthetic qualities. I never liked the Glass House from the time it was built. I always considered it an eyesore. So I say, good riddance. I just hope the “park” that takes its place is a bit more pleasing design than the one on the former Tower Building site.

    • frangipani says:

      I agree with Sam Putt Putt. Why is this historically significant?When it was built there was nothing good said about this structure. It has never fit into the architecture of Cayman and was always an eyesore in my opinion. I too say “good riddance”. Can the area be left green?

      • Anonymous says:

        An expensive eyesore at that..a glass building in the tropics to be heated up by intense sunlight so that hundreds of thousands could be spent on cooling it. Genius not !!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The building is not old. McKeewa thinks anything associated with him is historic.

    • Anonymous says:

      Most MLA’s are older and for sure nothing worth keeping there….

  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s too late anyway. The inmates have already escaped……..

  8. Anonymous says:

    hahaha…..who said cayman has no history or culture????…..we have the derelict glass house!!!
    welcome to wonderland….

  9. Donnie says:

    I remain of the view that the GT revitalisation project cannot be successful unless the issue of parking is addressed. Imagine yourself as a visitor driving into George Town at 10am to meet with a bank or other business in town; where do you park? There is the dire need to turn over on street parking through metering so that people do not come into town and occupy parking spaces from before 8a until after 5p.

    There is also the need for a high capacity parking facility close to the centre of town. The GT Police Station site offers the best opportunity for such a facility because it has a good spiral connection to the 4-lane bypass of Huldah Ave/Thomas Russell Ave so that motorists travelling from either north or south can exit onto Elgin Ave and drive directly to the parking facility. And from such a facility directly behind Elizabethan Square, people can walk a short distance and be on Shedden Road and Main St.
    Rather than selling this site and receiving monies which can never be used to provide such parking, the Government should be seeking proposals to develop it as a multi-story car park in a joint-ownership arrangement and retaining the property for future generations.

    • Anonymous says:

      If they wouldn’t park at Picadilly, they sure ain’t going to park at the Glass House site.

      Unless induced by parking meters on the downtown road spaces.

      But parking meters will never work because you just know our bandidos will be breaking them open every night.

      • Anonymous says:

        Parking meters? In the UK, there are routinely “pay and display” parking systems that require the purchase of a windshield displayed sticker (sold from machines, local shops etc) where you scratch off a layer to activate them for whatever period of time you paid to park for, No need for expensive, labour intensive and vandal/thief prone meters, just a few inspectors issuing tickets to keep offenders from getting away with cheating. Simple, cheap.


    • bananamontana says:

      I disagree – I think that infrastructure that only serves to continue to promote the use of personal vehicles as the primary mode of transportation in our country is not what this country needs in the long run. The congestion and car deaths we experience are not going to decrease until our government enables more people to be able to get to work, to restaurants, to shops, etc. without using a car. Parking lots are a temporary solution that do nothing but take up valuable real estate in our cramped capital. Our government should be investing in a decent public transport plan that incorporates buses, bicycle lanes, etc. instead of just putting up more parking lots.

  10. Anonymous says:

    As a contractor, those numbers seem completely and utterly wrong.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Just because a building is old does not mean it should be preserved for history. The glass house is an eyesore and is not historic. Dr. Roy’s house, on the other hand, was deserving of being saved but nobody seemed to care when it was torn down!

  12. Anonymous says:

    “Historic” is being used in what sense?

  13. Arch E. Tect says:

    Historic? Good God man. This is why we are where we are. What the hell is wrong with these people. That thing should have been demolished 44 years ago!

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