Chamber calls for more industry input
Government plans to buy out some landowners and demolish buildings to make way for a new road layout in central George Town.
Kenneth Ebanks, the former planning director who has been hired as a consultant to lead the process, told more than 100 people at a public meeting Tuesday that the draft plan will involve new roads and sidewalks as well as some pedestrian-only zones in the city. “Government’s role will be to put in the infrastructure, sidewalks, sewer system, street lighting and streetscaping,” he said.
“What we are hoping … is that enabling [an] encouraging environment will then attract new business to come and be located in our capital.”
Mr. Ebanks said the new layout, including extending Godfrey Nixon Road west as far as Da Fish Shack and linking a number of connector roads within the capital, would create a grid structure that would make the town more accessible to pedestrians.
He said government is in discussion with a number of private developers to create parking garages on the edges of town and is also considering a public trolley system to shuttle people around.
He said some buildings could be relocated, but other property owners would have to be bought out. “There are some existing buildings where some of the roads have been proposed. Some of those will have to be demolished. “The longer we wait, the more difficult and more costly it is going to become.
“Government is prepared to purchase those properties that there really isn’t any way around being demolished.”
Other ideas presented by Mr. Ebanks included pedestrianizing Cardinall Avenue, potentially making North Church Street one-way and widening sidewalks and adding trees. The old government building, known as the Glass House, will be demolished to make way for a park.
Architect Eddie Thompson, speaking during the question-and-answer session, likened some of the ideas expressed to “creating another Camana Bay in George Town.”
He said he welcomed the presentation as a first step but felt industry professionals should have a greater role in the planning process.
He said, “Is the government adverse to holding a charrette [with] industry professionals as opposed to a couple of individuals putting together some proposals?”
The Chamber of Commerce made a similar recommendation in a letter to Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts, also calling for a charrette – an intense, collaborative design process, spanning several days and involving professionals with relevant expertise.
Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer in the planning ministry, said meetings were planned with all stakeholders to get input.
Several residents at the meeting highlighted lack of parking and pedestrian accessibility as key problems to be addressed.
One resident, Aston Ebanks, said he was concerned that the plans would marginalize lower-income families.
He said he feared the revitalization could have an adverse impact on areas like Rock Hole if buildings were demolished to make way for new roads and parking garages. He said there was a risk that people living in those areas would end up being displaced.
“I came here expecting to see new concessions to get business back in so people want to come out and go shopping or have ice cream. What this seems to me is the gentrification of George Town.”