Big crowd hears George Town plans

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.” 

Big crowd hears George Town plans

Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer in the planning ministry, answers questions at Tuesday’s meeting. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Kenneth Ebanks

Kenneth Ebanks, a consultant on the George Town revitalization project, presents his ideas on Tuesday. PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER
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  1. After reading this report, and Mr Kenneth Ebanks ideas and plans, I think they are all good for the Town.
    George Town needs a facelift, it needs parking spaces, buildings need a fresh new look, and new businesses encouraged. Close Cardinal Avenue for pedestrians only. The new look will give store owners a new lease on life. Just like if you are feeling down and stressed; go get a massage, buy new clothes and shoes, dye your hair and have a facial, then see what happens.
    You only live once, enjoy every moment in being happy. I agree completely, spruce up the town, bring in trolley cars, build metro rails to Caymana Bay and then focus on coming East.

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  2. George Town is a ghost town because nobody lives there, and there is nothing there for anyone but cruise tourists. I’m not sure there’s anything in these plans to address either of those problems.

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  3. I think this is exactly what is needed. The only way to revitalize the area is going to be making it pedestrian friendly and get the cars out, and yes that will make it more like Camana Bay but that’s not a bad thing. As it is there is no structure and people have no way to easily navigate to, park and enjoy George Town. Every time I go there (very infrequently) I get fed up because I spend 20 minutes looking for parking just to quickly run an errand and that’s not to mention spending time in traffic and navigating the streets in and out. Make it a pedestrian friendly area with parking on the outsides and you’ve solved both of those problems.

    And in response to the fellow that worries about the gentrification of GT and displacing lower income families, well yes that will no doubt happen. However it is a sad, but unavoidable side effect of revitalization. The alternative is to let GT further decay so that even fewer people want to live or work in and around the city and it would be even cheaper.

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  4. Government should be careful about removing vehicles from roads in town to make streets more walkable. Nobody walks in Cayman. By making streets pedestrian only, you remove the local market from commercial businesses on streets. Instead, such infrastructure needs to be layered, not pedestrian only. Add sidewalks to streets that don’t have them to expose more people (pedestrians and cars) to commercial strips. Think of Cardinal Avenue on a Thursday when the street is shutdown to car traffic: does this bring more business to that street? No. Put an attractor at the end of the street and you might draw people down it. Instead CIG should be making streets for pedestrians and cars to stimulate commercial growth –think of Madison Avenue in New York, the busiest commercial strip in the US.

    Plans to make Harbour Front Road one-way or pedestrian only, does the same thing and also kills the thru traffic town currently has. There’s a huge amount of rushhour traffic that uses this road through town. Remove this and you seriously make town less-busy. This idea needs to be tested before being implemented. It’s a shame that waterfront roads keep getting moved inland -isn’t part of island life about catching beautiful views during our daily life?

    Towns are formed by the crossing busy infrastructure (such as roads) and by reducing vehicles on roads you un-make a town. A qualified, unbiased urban planner will tell you the same thing and more. CIG should hire one to understand that such plans will hollow out the downtown center and make it less accessible to residents. Yes, please open this up to a charrette to gain some fresh ideas and create attractors in town to give people more things to do there. Business concessions are a great idea.

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  5. John Harris is right.

    You can have a cruise ship shopping center.
    You can have a commercial center for locals.

    But I don’t think you can have both at the same time.

    Personally I avoid George Town whenever I can. Nowhere to park, no shops that I need and too many tattooed people in swimsuits.

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  6. I disagree. Lots of people walk in Cayman. I see tons of people walk around Camana Bay and I also see tons of people also walking in George Town. The difference is Camana Bay has limited the heaviest vehicle traffic to the outskirts of the town to allow offices and shops to build up in the inner portion and create a sustainable walkable community. George Town is a free for all of cars going every which way, mostly just trying to cut through or find parking. I think a qualified urban planner would say Camana Bay is more of an ideal model than GT. Comparing central GT to Madison Avenue is beyond absurd.

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  7. The infrastructure of George Town is terrible. Forget about GT. Built a world class dock at Spotts with a brand new planned out Shop complex for the Cruise ships and plan and build the roads.

    This way people who want to shop can stay there. People who want to go to SMB or Stingray take the bus and entrepreneurs can start more new business’ in the East and attract Cruise Shippers that way and Bodden Town.

    This way all the districts get a piece of the pie.

    GT will continue as it is with only the Court and few banks left. As more business leave building owners will convert to housing as GT is perfectly suited for low cost housing with easy transport to most of Cayman.

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  8. I agree with Christoph Walser. You need to make Gt pedestrian friendly. Shade lots of shade. Which is why I said in other letters a boardwalk 2 story tall.Where you will create more space on the water front. Plus you will have shade. Just think about all the second floor in town being reached with ease using an escalator. Flow ladies and gentlemen flow. No stopping ,go where you want to go. Catch a cable car to parking or go to Camana Bay .Bring the 2 towns together and eliminate traffic on 7 mile beach. Only allow golf cars or trolleys or cable cars. Wouldn”t that be nice? Build Apts 10 story tall so that the average apt is around CI$160,000 for a 1 bed. A nice retirement condo people could enjoy waking up to the smell of breakfast ,coffee ,pastries, bacon. Then you would have old friendly Caymanians to talk to the tourists. More activities like dances, Mardi Gras,Pirates week per month . Offer more services like bicycle rentals. Get the crime to come down because there will be more things to do to keep people happy. Allow smoking and drinking without getting drunk by allowing spaces just for them. Stop making more rules and controls on ones life. We all going to die from something at least let us go with a smile on our faces.

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