The Cayman Islands government is making plans for a central George Town that will be much more crowded within the next few years.
Traffic and parking issues already trouble Grand Cayman’s central business district and the community was given an emphatic reminder last week that two huge new office buildings on Elgin Avenue will be coming on line as construction crews started pouring concrete for the first floor of the Government Office Accommodation Project.
The office building, at 240,000 square feet, will house 34 government departments and is expected to be the largest commercial building in the country when it opens in January 2011.
Right across the road from the government office project is the almost-completed Walkers Global building.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said government has been making plans to improve the parking and transportation situation in the area.
‘The (congestion) implications were looked at very carefully,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘That was one of the reasons why the government purchased that four acre site behind the Immigration Building where we now have parking.’
When the government office project opens up, it will have underground parking available for public servants. Eventually, Mr. Tibbetts said government would look to build a parking garage on the lot behind the immigration building if that’s necessary. The cost of building a six storey garage there was recently estimated at $6 million.
Government is also eyeing up the purchase of some land to the north of the new office construction site for future use, Mr. Tibbetts said.
‘I think we will be with quite ample parking,’ he said.
Traffic issues will also have to be addressed as well before the new government office building comes on line.
Mr. Tibbetts said plans are to expand Elgin Avenue from two to four lanes, and provide better access from Elgin over to Smith Road. Government also plans to build a connecting road on the east side of the new office building which will link to Shedden Road.
It was acknowledged the new building and road construction would also require more flood mitigation measures. Right now, Elgin Avenue in front of the Cricket Square complex is one of the first areas to flood during heavy rains.
The government office project is just south of Cricket Square. The new Walkers’ building is right across the street.
‘We’re going to have a containment area near the site,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘We have to be careful to make sure that surrounding residents are not impacted by (flooding).’
Once the new government office project is finished, the old Glass House administration building will be torn down and made into park space.
On the other side of George Town’s central business district is the now vacant property once occupied by the Tower Building, which was demolished this year.
Mr. Tibbetts said it is possible that land might be used to provide additional parking, certainly for the Legislative Assembly building, and possibly via a parking garage later on.
However, he noted that there were some community members who also wished to the turn the area into park space.
‘Even in the very near future if we make it into a green area, we will have other options,’ he said. ‘We will have to make a decision.’