Glass House to be replaced with park
Improving the roads network, making parts of downtown pedestrian-only areas and changing zoning to allow new types of development are among some initial ideas put forward by government for the revitalization of George Town.
The old government building, known as the Glass House, will be demolished and replaced with a park, paid for by a private donor, as part of the redevelopment.
Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said government’s aim is to put the physical and regulatory infrastructure in place to stimulate new development in the capital.
Speaking to business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce lunch last week, Mr. Tibbetts urged them to “put your money where your mouths are” and help reverse the “steady drain” of life from George Town.
He said, “This is not just a face-lift or a beautification project, it is meant to be the true restoration of our capital into a bustling mixed-use neighborhood for businesses, residents and the tourists that visit our shores.”
Mr. Tibbetts told the Cayman Compass he believes government’s role will be as a facilitator for private sector development. He said $20 million is being spent on improving road connectivity, and more money would be spent on beautifying sidewalks and making the town more pedestrian friendly, but the main investment would have to come from private sector projects.
The proposed improvements will tie in with a number of planned projects, including the new cruise piers in George Town harbor.
Mr. Tibbetts hopes the private sector will get involved in projects, potentially including multi-story parking garages on the edge of the downtown district, freeing up land currently used for parking to be used for development.
An outline plan, presented by Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer in Mr. Tibbetts’s ministry, and Kenneth Ebanks, a consultant on the George Town project, included the potential use of “trolleys” in the capital – tram-style vehicles that could ferry tourists into newly created pedestrian zones as part of a park-and-ride scheme.
According to the officials, a number of developments, including a hotel and a supermarket, with office space and housing above, have been proposed and could proceed once necessary zoning changes are made.
No mention was made of the cargo docks, long considered a barrier to improving nightlife in George Town.
Mr. Ebanks said the plan could involve turning Fort Street and the southern part of Albert Panton Street into pedestrian zones.
Parts of Harbor Drive could also be pedestrian areas or turned into a one-way street in order to improve pedestrian access. The proposals also involve tree planting to create additional shaded areas on sidewalks in the capital.
The ideas and slideshow, presented by Mr. Ebanks and Mr. Hydes, were characterized as conceptual thoughts rather than concrete plans. Mr. Ebanks said the next step is to reach out to stakeholder groups and finalize a draft plan for the capital in the next few months.
Mr. Tibbetts said funding the roads would be the government’s main financial contribution.
“This plan that we are devising is to set the stage so that we don’t have development being done in an ad hoc fashion.
“When we talk about expense, that is all to do with private sector development. The private sector are going to be spending money, yes, to revitalize the district, but they are doing that on a commercial basis.”