Summer start for GT revitalization work
The Cayman Islands government is expected to seek Planning Law changes to allow “mixed use” developments in George Town’s downtown business district as part of an effort to revitalize the territory’s capital city.
Mixed use development projects generally involve retail stores or restaurants on the ground floors of the buildings, with space for residential living above.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said last week that “a range of proposals” were being reviewed to revamp the charming, historic downtown district in an effort to combat the “ghost-town” effect often seen at dusk when cruise ships sail out.
“[These include] changes to traffic and pedestrian flows, beautification, mixed-use planning permission to allow commercial and residential activities in the same building and protection and preservation of historic areas and landmarks,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
He said a technical team of government employees is investigating the revitalization options for downtown and getting input from tourism-related businesses and the Chamber of Commerce on how to maximize the effect of a new cruise berthing terminal planned for George Town. The team is expected to put forth its recommendations in March, with implementation of some of the immediate plans slated for this summer.
One proposal the government is considering involves the closure of Harbour Drive at the waterfront area, the Caymanian Compass has learned. However, a key issue in that discussion is what will happen with the George Town port if government seeks to revamp its central tourism district.
Interestingly, a coastal works and dredging application was filed in November on behalf of Balboa Cruise Terminals for a lone finger pier, close to the Burger King restaurant on the waterfront.
According to the application, the pier would provide berthing facilities for mega yachts, tall ships and cargo ships. It would not involve cruise ship berthing.
Cabinet members have had little comment as to whether the harbor can sustain two major pier projects. Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell has previously declined to speak about the proposal in detail, though he has hinted it could provide a solution to ongoing issues with the cargo port.
Consultants PwC advised in an outline business case that government proceed with building two piers for cruise ships at the Royal Watler dock with an option to move the adjoining cargo dock at a later stage.
Balboa’s application for a coastal works license would be located to the north of the Royal Watler dock. The site, between Mr. Arthur’s and the two-story building where La Dolce Vita restaurant is located, is owned by Atlantic Centre Holdings. Architect’s drawings filed with the coastal works application indicate that the pier would extend more than 1,500 feet into the ocean – large enough to accommodate the biggest ships in the world.
Former George Town MLA and long-time revitalization advocate Lucille Seymour, who is a deputy chairperson for the Progressives political party in George Town, has previously proposed plans for mixed use residential-commercial development in the central business district and has backed closing off certain areas of George Town to vehicular traffic.
She’s not so sure about relocation of the port. “We could have had it out in the North Sound years ago, but it’s too late now.”
The revitalization of George Town should not just be contained to the waterfront. Ms. Seymour said government planners should consider routes into and out of town, including Shedden Road and the Industrial Park business district, both of which have become a bit run-down looking in recent years.
“Shedden Road is our historical street,” Ms. Seymour said. “We need to look at enhancing it … make it something more attractive.”
Cultural tourism could be improved by enhancing certain section of Shedden Road closer to town, Ms. Seymour said.
“Put in what we call a crafts institute or a craft center. Thatch work, make it more creative so people can buy it. We could also have a cultural center and also a great market in town, we have to make sure we localize the program.”
Mr. McLaughlin did not provide specifics on any of government’s plans for the George Town area. Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts did not return calls for comment on the issue.