George Town revitalization: A private moment

Revitalizing central George Town is such an ambitious and attractive undertaking that, frankly, we can’t wait for it to get started. Along with bringing new life to our capital’s core, it is equally an opportunity to revive Cayman’s public/private partnership model that historically has served these islands so well.

Nearly everyone agrees that government can never be the architect, engineer and financier of the plan to reinvigorate downtown. It simply doesn’t have the resources — financial, physical, or creative — to direct such an undertaking.
Minister Kurt Tibbetts seemed to acknowledge that in his recent statements regarding the revitalization effort:

“When we talk about expense, that is all to do with private sector development. The private sector is going to be spending money, yes, to revitalize the district, but they are doing that on a commercial basis,” he said.

Mr. Tibbetts added that government will spend $20 million on improving road connectivity and still more on making downtown more pedestrian friendly. The government also continues to pursue the George Town harbor cruise berthing project, though the related “addition by subtraction” proposal — that is, removing the cargo docks away from downtown — has been absent from the government’s agenda for quite some time.

An important way the government can act as facilitator to investors is, ironically, by doing less, not more. It should ruthlessly reduce red tape and lower or eliminate fees associated with development in the downtown area.

(In principle, we oppose the reduction of duties and/or fees for private developers, but it has become such a common practice — in Cayman and elsewhere — that investors have come to consider such concessions as part of their routine negotiating strategy. To remain competitive with other jurisdictions, we may just need to accept the practice and move on … )

At this point, let us lend our support to the government’s road works that serve to route automobile traffic around downtown, rather than through it. Hopefully the expansions and widenings of Godfrey Nixon Way, Linford Pierson Highway, Smith Road, etc., will finally de-clog the regular bottlenecks that develop during rush hour south and east of downtown.

We will, however, add a word of caution to Mr. Tibbetts and his planners who would push the idea of implementing “trolleys” or other “park and ride” systems with the expectation that drivers will park their cars on the fringe of downtown and then take public transit to downtown’s core.

People become much less likely to use public transit each time they must switch their mode of travel (i.e. from car to bus or “trolley”) and even more so when walking distance exceeds a quarter-mile (probably shorter in Cayman, due to hot and humid conditions).

As has been demonstrated at Camana Bay, a sufficient supply of nearby parking is vital to viable development — a conundrum that has never been adequately addressed in our center city. Many (most?) of our citizenry won’t venture into George Town during the week simply because there’s no place to park.

On two related topics, we aren’t so sure about the advisability of demolishing the old Glass House on Elgin Avenue and replacing it with a park. We question whether that is the “highest and best use” of this valuable property. Additionally, we are skeptical, given its location, whether a park will attract enough visitors to justify such a non-commercial use. If, however, the plan is simply to “park the park” until a better opportunity presents itself, that might make more sense.

In regard to the “Turtle Dome” — the proposed waterfront ice-stadium touted by Mr. Tibbetts as a key plank in downtown’s redevelopment — we’ll reserve our judgment. For now, we’ll simply wish those private entrepreneurs “smooth skating and good luck.”



  1. What I see taking place in Cayman is that we have some who have made it and continue to make it, but does not want to slip aside and give others a chance. Every watched a greedy puppy eat from two plates?
    George Town needs a face lift, that is obvious; and the only part of this that will not go down well is to have all these promises made by the government and nothing comes to fruition.
    As much as I hate to see Glass House disappear, the building, I believe is unsafe as it is for public use. I support a park that can be used for entertainment, and relaxation; I also support a trolley service from the park to Central George Town. On any given day I would prefer pay a dollar and park my car there and take a trolley into Central George Town. It beats the stress of trying to find parking in town, a chance to show off a new pair of high heel shoes, a new neck tie, and gives everyone an opportunity to stay in touch. Bus service will always be there for those who do not drive. There is no where in Town to park now, can you imagine what it will be like in two years?
    I believe a park will be well used, not only by government but also by private entertainment. I fully support it and I would like to see some action taking place before two weeks of next election.

  2. @TwylaVargas,
    Did you read "Dart,beyond Camana Bay" article (published yesterday), especially "George Town revitalization" part? Experts vs. Dilettantes?

  3. The sad fact for George Town is that is impossible to be both a tourist destination for boat people and an attractive hub for locals.
    Even the fabulous National Gallery has left.

    Tourists want shopping and other attractions within a short walk. Locals don’t want jewelry and t shirt shops but do want easy parking and, most important, a reason to go there.
    Why struggle to park your car when you can head to Camana Bay or the public beaches?

    Personally I’ve never understood the benefits of packing the town with people who might spend a few dollars on a tour.

    One argument is that if people spend the day here some will return as stay over tourists. Which is where the real money is.
    I have asked many people in Florida if they have ever been here. A lot of them say yes but only on a cruise. I then ask if they ever returned to stay over. Not one person has said "Yes".

    And I wonder if some potential stay over tourists won’t come because of this flood of boat people.

    Just my thoughts.

  4. Norman,

    I’m not sure what your suggestion is here. Do you suggest getting out of the cruise industry? I’d say that’s not a great plan, even if they are the bane of many locals’ existence. 5,000 cruise ship tourists a day is better than none. Their money spends the same as stay-over tourists and locals, and I assure you many do return for stay-over trips. I know quite a few who have done so and some who have even moved here after a nice cruise experience.

    I think the problem mostly is the lack of infrastructure in and around George Town for both locals and cruise ship passengers to exist. Making the waterfront area pedestrian only could help quite a bit and route local traffic to the rear of town.

    In the end people have to ask is GT revitalisation really a worthy and feasible goal? And by that I mean making it a destination for locals and tourists after dark. There are only so many places people on this small island can support and Camana Bay has filled the vacuum that GT left. I just don’t see another town center being viable. I believe the best path would be make it a pleasant area for cruise ship passengers and locals that have to work down there during the day, neither of which it seems to be now.

  5. What I am really looking at right now is to those who are making these promises to the people to ignore the negative talk.
    Not because I am not standing up on Glass House top, means that I am not aware of what is taking place here in Cayman.
    I just want to see the strength of the Government and the People not to back down on what they can do. It is time we stood tall and call a spade a spade. I am going to stand firm behind the government once they stand firm to what they have to do. I am just tired and sick of some people wanting to run this country their way.

  6. I must agree with David, I think I would vote for him as well, he’s surely would be more concerned about the future stability of Cayman than the outcome of the next election only. Most of Caymans Politicians can’t seem to see past that.

    As far as promises made by the government not coming to fruition. This is something I’d think everyone would be used to by now, because it’s the norm. Every election you hear tons of promises most of which obviously cannot be kept, but that doesn’t seem to matter because it seems that the leaders are chosen based on who makes the biggest and the best promises not how many they actually keep..

    Simply put on any day I would trust the Dart Group with Caymans future more than I would any of the politicians I have come to recognize..

  7. Thank you Ms Bell for bringing the article to my attention. I did a quick run through and again I am going to be positive as much as I can in my comments.
    First I want to say this. When Mr Bush was Premier, All talk was that he and his government was in bed with Dart; now the All talk is that this Premier and his government is in bed with Dart. People need to make up their minds.
    As I see it now what is happening, is the same thing Mr Bush was trying to do Make things better for the Island. Of course the new Government sees the same thing and is just picking up where he left off. They would be fool not to, and only a fool breaks his own heart.
    First thing I have never heard or read that Dart has put a gun to the head of the previous government nor this government to join hands in business and make Cayman a better place. Neither has he done this to any private persons who wanted to sell their property and business.
    I have tried as best as possible to keep update with the work of these people, and what I have to say is this. They have made Cayman more beautiful in every way; that it is obvious the envy of many other countries. Before he came to Cayman there were companies, businesses, hotels and others who made a lifetime killing here for years. Did any of them offer to partner with the government to makes things better? No they did not. If Dart Company is going to partner with government to assist in the remodeling of George Town; So be it, I am sure he is going to do a good job. I support the Face lift of George Town, and I support the park at Glass House.

  8. Christoph

    What is better: 5,000 cruise boat people spending $10 a day or 100 stay over tourists spending $500 per day?

    And I believe the average stay over tourist is spending more than this.

    Personally I’d go for the stay over tourists.
    Let’s give them a great experience so they will spread the word about what a fantastic vacation destination this is.

    We never used to have a cruise ship business, it just kind of started and little by little central George Town became littered with girls in bikinis and men with tattoos and muscle T-shirts.

    And locals moved out!

  9. Infrastructure creates opportunities for all.

    But as soon as you start talking about ”Georgetown” you”re already failing.

    The problem for Cruise passengers and for Cayman is ”OR”.

    Shall I goto Seven Mile Beach ”OR” the Turtle Farm.

    Today we had about 12,000 cruise ship passengers – to transport them all by Mini-bus would take almost 1,000 vehicles and form a traffic jam 2 and 2 thirds miles long, bumper to bumper, clearly that is impractical.

    Look at Disneyworld, Half the size of Cayman (47 Square Miles), (a population of about 58,000 staff by coincidence!) but handles 10 times the visitors every day…

    The answer is infrastructure – their mono-rail system is fast and ”flies” above the traffic;-

    Could a cruise ship passenger go to the Botanical Park if it was only 15 minutes away, AND then goto the Turtle Farm, AND then go to Seven Mile Beach – They spend more AND they get more, more likely to come back and stay over…

    Could the Cruise Pier be built elsewhere so as not to damage the environment if there was a rapid transit to Georgetown, AND East End, AND West Bay…

    Could a new Airport be built with proper (and several) international length runways (3,000 foot longer than George Owen), Jetways and so forth, 10 minutes from the Shetty Hospital, but also 10 minutes from Georgetown.

    Could a Businessman fly down to Cayman to hold a meeting, quick and efficient transport would allow it, maybe even Golf after.

    Could you leave the car at home and meet friends in GT for coffee, nibbles and drinks without being a danger on the road…

    Dart isn”t building new roads because he has some spare asphalt, That infrastructure adds value to the hotels and Caymana Bay. CIG needs to start doing the same for Cayman as a whole.

    ”But theres no money…” – Yes, it always seems the answer, but perhaps prioritizing spending and making better use of the monies spent would bring this into the realms of feasibility. All too often the government is paying for Steak, but being served a beef flavoured raman noodle!
    Sadly many of the Tourists are also receiving poor value too.

    Look to the future and good things happen (”If you build it they will come”) – London would not have won the Olympic bid had they not had the light railways and the underground network.

  10. I would suggest that everyone read the comments by Andy Gray. Your eyes will be opened up that every word is a fact. Infrastructure creates opportunities for all.
    People need to understand that Dart has brought Cayman years ahead by his great works in construction landscaping and road ways, I would go as far as to say the remodeling is awesome. The man know people, and is opening up a tourism package for all to enjoy.
    Does anyone think that the government can afford to put in mono-rail?. Not in my life time. Just like Andy say, it is fast and flies above the traffic. Who would not like to get to the turtle farm, botanic park or anywhere out of town in 15 minutes? I would. The days of donkey and hand cart is gone, we eat with plastic forks, foam cups and paper plates and throw them in the garbage when we are done. We do not build wooden coffins any more they are foam and hard plastic. My friends we are in the fast lane so we might as well prepare to step on the train or stay home.