Work has begun on an oceanside boardwalk in George Town that architects say will provide pedestrian access to bars and businesses along the waterfront.
Ultimately they hope the boardwalk will extend all the way to Seven Mile Beach, creating a picturesque walking path linking the capital to the island’s most famous tourist attraction.
The first phase of the plan will involve a quarter-mile stretch from the Royal Watler Terminal to La Dolce Vita restaurant, with funding for the development expected to come from the 16 landowners along the route.
Chris Johnson, who owns the stretch of land that encompasses the site of the current fish market, beach and adjoining properties, is one of the first landowners to get involved. Work began this week to build a wide section of boardwalk on the edge of his property.
Construction of the promenade, which will include historic plaques, benches, palm trees and steps to access the beach, is expected to take around six weeks, Mr. Johnson said,
“The idea is that this is going to be a place where residents and tourists can walk safely and enjoy the views of the ocean. There will be benches facing the ocean and plaques on points of interest. I’d also like the beach to be used more than it is right now.”
The wider project is the brainchild of Mr. Johnson’s son, architect Robert Johnson, who obtained planning permission in 2011 for the boardwalk.
While the name boardwalk may conjure up images of wooden planks traversing sections of the ocean, the proposed development will be made from concrete and is essentially an enhanced sidewalk following the approximate route of the road.
The number of different landowners involved and the lack of government funding means it will have to be completed piece by piece as financing becomes available from the various property owners. But he hopes construction of this phase along what he believes is one of the prettiest stretches of the route will show the potential of the plan and create some momentum toward completing the George Town phase of the project.
He said all the landowners along the route had agreed to get involved, but there is no definite time line of when the other sections would be built. A small stretch at the opposite end of the route – next to the Fish Shack – was built last summer. But the latest section is expected to be more picturesque and showcase the potential of the project.
“I think once people see this stretch of the boardwalk and the access it brings to businesses in terms of foot traffic, we can start negotiating again to move ahead with some of the other sections,” said Mr. Johnson.
He said the businesses along North Church Street were suffering in comparison to those on Harbor Drive and South Church Street because they lacked pedestrian access.
“This is something that is going to link businesses and cultural sites on the waterfront and allow tourists and residents to access this part of George Town without walking on the road,” he said.
The more ambitious part of the plan – to eventually extend the boardwalk all the way to Seven Mile Beach – would likely require some form of sponsorship or government backing.
Mr. Johnson believes it would create an attractive walkway with views of the ocean that would be a new tourist attraction.
“The aim is to get the George Town section completed and then start to work on that,” he said.