Ironwood: Economic driver for Grand Cayman's 'other half'

It is with some pleasure that we take note of Ironwood developer David Moffitt’s estimate that construction of the 10-mile East-West Arterial extension will generate jobs for around 200 people, 95 percent of whom could be Caymanian. Similarly, we are pleased to hear that 75 percent of the road’s $50 million cost will go directly into local pockets.

All good news, for sure.

But the possible impact of Mr. Moffitt’s project, over the long term, is far greater than the creation of temporary positions for laborers, or the one-time injection of funds into the local economy — far greater, even, than the planned $360 million golf resort, taken by itself (though it is, of course, quite an impressive sum).

When we speak of the potential of the Ironwood development, we are talking about nothing less than a complete shift in how investors, businesses, residents and visitors perceive and experience the island of Grand Cayman.
Some 150 years ago, a phrase (of uncertain origin) became synonymous with the American idea of “Manifest Destiny,” encapsulating the hopes and dreams of a generation of pioneers who abandoned cities on the Atlantic seaboard in order to tame the continent’s vast interior: “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”

Similar sentiments (though on a smaller scale, and in the opposite direction) can be expressed in regard to the future of economic activity in Cayman, which heretofore has been concentrated almost wholly on the George Town-Seven Mile Beach corridor. In short: “Go East.”

If Mr. Moffitt’s vision for Ironwood materializes, then the development could act as a brand-new “town center” for the eastern half of the island, the potential of which would be effectively “unlocked” by the new East-West Arterial extension. Put another way, Ironwood and the East-West Arterial could do for the region east of George Town what Camana Bay and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway have done for the region north of George Town.

It is also important to note the synergies between Ironwood (and its residential and commercial components) and the burgeoning Health City Cayman Islands medical complex, which, additionally, in order to grow significantly beyond its initial phase, needs a faster and more direct transportation route from and to the airport. Ironwood’s highway extension would accomplish much of that infrastructure requirement.

The possibilities, at this point, do not come without caveats. We have two primary concerns:

First, the government’s deal with Ironwood will have to pass muster under the borrowing restrictions prescribed by the U.K.’s Framework for Fiscal Responsibility — unless, conceivably, the British government gives its special blessing for this particular arrangement. Mr. Moffitt says Ironwood’s final business case will demonstrate that the government and Caymanian people are getting a good deal. We await confirmation of that assertion with no small degree of anticipation.

Second, unlike the Dart Group’s new extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway (which runs through land owned by Dart), the construction of the East-West Arterial extension will require a diverse group of private property owners to forfeit, sell or otherwise “give up” their land to government so the road can be built.

While we hold the opinion that the countrywide benefits of the new highway appear to outweigh individuals’ losses of their real estate, we remain firm believers in the sacrosanctity of private property rights; accordingly, it behooves government to exercise its powers of “compulsory acquisition” (or “eminent domain”) with great care and sensitivity, and to ensure that landowners receive fair — and swift — compensation in exchange for their property, something that government has arguably failed to do in the past.

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  1. Two old cliche’s spring to mind. From Western movies – this town ain’t big enough for the two of us – and a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes – it is not always to the fastest the race, nor the strongest the battle – but that is the way to bet .
    Mr Moffitt is effectively taking on a Goliath billion dollar development on the fashionable multi-resources West end of the island, with a fancy golf course and condos, in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully, his first name is David.

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  2. First thing first, government should be compelled to pay people fair market value for any land they require for the road. Saying that the road will increase the value of their land and not paying anything for it is a crock. If a high end luxury resort wanted to build a road across crown land and said that it would increase the value of the land so they should not have to pay for it the CIG go banana’s unless they were getting fair compensation for the land or the road was to be given to them once completed. The type of land grabs they do amount to nothing more than stealing your property, suppose you’d invested all your hard earned money into a development plan for that tract of land, are they going to compensate you for all the money you put out for architects, Planning Fees and even building permit fees. Suppose you have a mortgage on the land are you now stuck paying for land you no longer own.

    As for the Ironwood development itself, I completely agree that it will add needed higher end diversity to the Cayman Islands Product. Camana Bay is a beautiful place but lacks that small town village atmosphere that a lot of people seek for living and Vacationing, IronWood seems to offer this on the quieter side of the island. Visitors can’t go to Camana Bay every day, and face it there’s not many other places that compare if any. It would be great to have somewhere else to hang out at than Camana Bay and will draw visitors from what will soon be known as the City to the suburbs of the Eastern Districts. I certainly hope they build a Cinema in Ironwood I would much rather go out to a movie there.

    Now if Georgetown can be rejuvenated and made more pedestrian friendly and Green we’ll be good to go. But Since it’s the CIG doing it I doubt that it will ever compare to private developments like Camana Bay or Ironwood, the CIG is just simply not as good at these things and take forever to even get started and even longer to complete.

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  3. @ David Wheaton, I think you are absolutely right about them taking on Goliath. However, I think IronWood will attract a completely different clientele than Camana with the suburban location and small town fell. Camana Bay can be kind of City and little stuffy attracting a more corporate yuppie clientele where Ironwood seems like it will be more laid back which will attract people seeking a quieter cozier place to visit. I myself would pick Ironwood over Camana Bay simply because of this as well as the commute from NorthSide, but I wouldn’t chose to live at either location because I like my space and when I look out the window in the morning all I want to see is water, trees and sky not a building right next.

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  4. I don’t feel like Gov’t should pay people for the road. Tis road is going through my property and has increased my property value form 15,000 to 20,000 per acre. The longer I hold onto it the more it will increase. That is mostly due to the road. If Ironwood didn’t want to build the road how would we sell at the new value? Who has this kind of money to pay for it? Sometimes we look at a gift horse in the mouth and forget we just got lucky.

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