Editorial for July 15: The price of progress

Judging
by some of the comments on our caycompass.com website, not everyone is happy
about the government’s decision to increase the building height along the Seven
Mile Beach corridor to 10 storeys.

One
person commented that the Seven Mile Beach area will end up looking like Miami
Beach, not a sleepy little Caribbean island. We hate break the spell of those
waxing nostalgic, but we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Cayman, and
particularly Seven Mile Beach, ceased to resemble a sleepy little Caribbean
island a long time ago, back when condominiums were still only three storeys
and hotels were only five.

The
truth is Seven Mile Beach is pretty much built out. If any more development is
going to take place along the beach, it will most likely happen because an
existing structure is torn down and a new one constructed. For a number of
cost-related reasons, the only way this would be feasible for developers is if
they can build higher, thus getting more units in their development.

Development
on Seven Mile Beach has been an important economic driver in the Cayman Islands
pretty much continually for the past 40 years or so. It keeps the construction
industry going. It brings in revenues to government through work permit fees,
import duties, planning fees and stamp duties. New projects also often entice
foreign investors to buy properties in the Cayman Islands, broadening the
return-visitor tourism base.

Without
changing the law, Grand Cayman faces a situation where building along Seven
Mile Beach would mostly end, forcing development to other places on the Island.
However, not many developers are keen on building in the outer districts. Other
places on the Island are missing the high quality beach, calm, sandy-bottom
waters and the restaurant/shopping infrastructure that is found along Seven
Mile Beach, things most foreign investors find appealing.

Most
of Cayman’s regional tourism competitors are building condominiums and hotels
much higher than 10 stories. Ten storeys is not Miami Beach, Aruba, Jamaica,
Panama, Saint Maarten or any one of many other regional destinations. Ten
storeys, however, is something that can help Cayman financially for years to
come.

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