GT revamp may bring new roads

Efforts to revitalize the Cayman Islands capital near the waterfront tourism and business district will get under way in the upcoming budget year with construction of several new roadways, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said Wednesday during debate on the government’s 2014/15 budget plan.  

Improvements slated to begin in the next budget year, which starts on July 1, include “new connector roads from Elgin Avenue to Eastern Avenue, from Elgin Avenue to Smith Road, from the Godfrey Nixon Way extension to North Church Street and the extension of Fort Street going north,” Mr. Tibbetts said.  

Also planned were improvements to Smith Road, Godfrey Nixon Way and Edward and Fort Streets downtown. The overall proposal to revamp the central capital district is a much larger plan still under development, Mr. Tibbetts said. He cautioned that the government would not and could not afford to do the entire project by itself, but that an outline proposal would go to Cabinet for approval soon. After approval is granted, the ministry will seek public input on the redevelopment project.  

“We’re basing all that we are doing on the premise that we cannot lose the district of George Town as the capital, simple as that,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “This is something that is not going to be done in a day, but the town is dying. Something has to be done.”  

The area being concentrated on for the revitalization encompasses a few square miles between Godfrey Nixon Way and Eastern Avenue, west to North Church Street up to where Da Fish Shack is located, extending south to Elgin Avenue and then along South Church Street to Eden Rock.  

The general principles being explored are “walkability and connectivity,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “More walking and less driving,” he said. “The idea is to have most things you’d want within 10 minutes [walk] to work.”  

As government officials have said before, the plan proposes to close off certain areas of downtown George Town to vehicle traffic. In addition, the government plan relies on the development of “mixed use” building plans – commercial shops on the bottom floors and residential or office space above. Very few residents currently live in the town center.  

To ease transport, the plan also considers the creation of “trolley” routes where pedestrians can hop on and travel to their intended destination. Mr. Tibbetts said the area would focus on “green transportation” where possible.  

All the works proposed or being discussed at this stage would not be completed during the Progressives-led government’s term, Mr. Tibbetts said.  

The planning minister did not discuss previous proposals regarding government hiring or electing a “city manager” for the downtown area in his statement to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.  

Mr. Tibbetts also noted that government plans for George Town revitalization projects are being drawn up “independent of” proposals for the creation of a cruise ship berthing facility on the waterfront and the planned airport redevelopment project.