The Cayman Islands government has appointed a “George Town manager” as part of its plans for a new revitalization project to breathe new life into the islands’ capital.
Colin Lumsden, an architect with the Public Works Department, will take up the position of George Town manager on Oct. 15. Then government will assemble a steering committee that incorporates government employees, representatives of major stakeholders and members of the public at large, according to officials.
Tristan Hydes, the deputy chief officer of the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, announced Mr. Lumsden’s role Thursday while speaking at the Road Safety Conference.
“He’s the first part of the puzzle,” Mr. Hydes said. “The second part is an urban development commission. That’s to really look at the management and the development of George Town. The large stakeholders will be on it, but so will community people.… Government and planning will be there to add direction. The plan is very long term. You can’t think short term with this kind of stuff.”
When Mr. Lumsden takes over as manager, he will begin with what Mr. Hydes calls “low-hanging fruit,” such as removing trees in some places and altering sidewalks in others, and narrowing roads to provide for more walking space. Eventually, said Mr. Hydes, there may be little or no curbside parking down by the courthouse buildings, and pedestrians may be moved around by a trolley or shuttle service.
“Unlike Camana Bay with a developer that can do whatever he wants down there, government doesn’t own the entire George Town. Government only owns the roads, and not even all of those,” Mr. Hydes said. “What we can do is facilitate and put in better infrastructure, whether it’s from a communications or a road network perspective. I think there’s going to come a time where you’re going to see parking on the outskirts. It won’t be curbside parking. But it will be a lot more friendly and a lot softer.”
Mr. Lumsden said that when he returned to Cayman in 1996 after pursuing his education at Florida A&M University and Florida State University, he noticed that George Town just was not the same. There was less room to walk around, fewer places to congregate, and it just did not feel like home anymore.
Later in his career, he helped design the George Town Library, and he fought an effort to have it built elsewhere on the island. Now, as George Town manager, he looks forward to revitalizing the area.
“To be honest, I’m leaving one job for another,” he said. “I haven’t had time to wrap myself around it so I’m a little apprehensive about saying, ‘Here’s my plan.’ You know what my plan is? To listen.”
A lot of the change in the George Town corridor will happen naturally, Mr. Hydes said, as the old Scotiabank headquarters will be transformed into additional court space. That provides the area with an “anchor tenant,” and the hope is that a lot of new businesses will spring up around it.
Mr. Lumsden said that he has already sat through two town hall meetings – one with the public at large and another with professionals in the architecture and planning fields – and he hopes to work together with the steering committee to build a George Town that can last for decades into the future.
“We’re going to be taking ideas from every single person,” he said. “We want to build something we can plan for and hopefully organically slip everything into place over the next five, 10 or 15 years.”
Mr. Hydes and Mr. Lumsden are working with a plan designed by former planning director Kenneth Ebanks that has already been presented to government and undergone some necessary revisions. The process has taken four years, Mr. Hydes said, but the government is committed to getting behind the revitalization project.
Several new roads are already being planned to transform the community over the next few years. But there’s a difficulty, Mr. Hydes said, in building for the now and forsaking the future.
“There are 60,000 people here, and we can’t just press pause,” Mr. Hydes said. “What happens when we’re 100,000 or 120,000 people? That’s really the long-term picture. This is not a quick fix.”