The former Cayman Islands government administration building, known as the “Glass House,” would cost more to refurbish and reuse for government office space than it will to demolish, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said Friday.
Mr. Tibbetts’s statement came in response to a parliamentary question asked by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who wondered why the 1970s-era office building on Elgin Avenue could not be used for overflow office space for government, which he said was “still paying rent for various departments,” despite the new administration building’s opening in early 2011.
Mr. Bush also questioned whether the old Glass House could not be used as the new operations headquarters for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, whose current central police station is in a dilapidated state and needs to be replaced.
“The Glass House is an inefficient building by modern standards as it is some 45 years old,” Mr. Tibbetts said in response. “It would cost more to refurbish it than what it’s worth.”
For instance, the building has a number of building code violations that would be costly to fix. The worst example is the placement of the building’s elevators and staircases in the central core of the structure. Additional staircases would have to be built, reducing the available office space area, Mr. Tibbetts said.
When it was still being used, the average monthly power bill for the Glass House was about $55,000, Mr. Tibbetts said. The average monthly bill for the new Government Administration Building is $85,000 per month, but the new administration building is about six times larger than the old one.
“Even with major renovation, it would not be able to match the energy efficiency and seismic and hurricane resistance of … the new [government] administration building,” Mr. Tibbetts said.
The government’s current plan is to demolish the old office building and create a park in the area now bounded by the new administration building, Radio Cayman and the George Town Police Station.
Nearly a decade ago, a quantity surveyor estimated it would cost nearly $10 million to renovate the Glass House to an acceptable standard. In 2009, a further review put those renovation costs even higher – between $13 million and $16 million. Mr. Bush, the former premier, had plans at one stage to turn the building into offices for his Ministry of Financial Services, but that never happened.
That put the question of using it for the new police station site out of the question, Mr. Tibbetts said.
“In light of the findings in the 2006 and 2009 reports … it is not considered practical or value for money to renovate the Glass House for any other use,” Mr. Tibbetts said.
The planning minister said the current government administration building is now 86 percent occupied. As more agencies move into the building, the government is expected to save money on annual lease costs in other buildings, which are still costing millions each budget year.