A part-built structure, that has been puzzling beachgoers in Bodden Town for several weeks, will eventually be home to a new seaside craft market, the Public Works Department confirmed Wednesday.
Government is in the early stages of building a $200,000 open-air cabana at Coe Wood Beach that will host a variety of artisans and vendors.
Island Builders is carrying out the work after the company was successful in the bidding process launched by the Ministry of Commerce, Infrastructure and Planning in 2017.
Work began in the first week of February, with the tearing up of floorboards and remnants of four huts that government had previously constructed on the site and demolished in January 2017.
The new 1,614-square-foot structure will have a concrete base and main structural elements constructed from wood. The project, which got the necessary approvals from the Department of Planning in 2018, will be completed in less than seven weeks, according to the Public Works Department.
Over the years, the revitalization of Coe Wood Beach has been a part of the “Go East” campaign, aimed at attracting more visitors to the eastern districts of Grand Cayman.
The construction currently under way is on the same area of beach on which four kiosks previously stood. They were torn down in 2017 after being padlocked and unused for four years.
The kiosks, which were completed in late 2012 as part of an effort to revitalize Coe Wood Beach, were intended to be part of a public facility where vendors could showcase traditional foods, arts and crafts to the public. The plans for the beach initiative included the construction of a boat ramp, sidewalk and parking areas, and a storytelling arena.
In a statement from his MLA office, in response to questions from the Compass about the construction work, Dwayne Seymour, government minister and Bodden Town East MLA, said, “We are grateful for anything that is constructed in Bodden Town to advance the quality of life of our people, whilst creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
His office described the building as a “mini pavilion.”
Early this week, local residents told the Compass they had received no information about what was being built on the site.
District historian Mary Lawrence and former Bodden Town MLA and government minister Osbourne Bodden both said they were in the dark as to what was being built on the beach.
Mr. Bodden said he knew that there were plans to redevelop all public beaches and standardize facilities and operations to some extent, but he said he did not know if that was what was happening at Coe Wood Beach.
Resident Neville McCoy said he figured something like George Town’s Farmers Market was being built on the beach, so that people could sell goods there, but he added, “It is strange that this is being done and no one in the community had any knowledge of what was taking place.”
Twyla Vargas, a district spokesperson, said she had heard government was building back similar huts/kiosks that had been there before, only on a bigger scale.
Ms. Vargas said Coe Wood Beach had been a political football over the years, with each politician pulling down and erecting facilities when it suited their political agenda.
After the huts were built in 2012, tensions flared over their use and, unable to decide what to do, government had them padlocked. Former MLA Mr. Bodden said the huts were “rushed, and ended up being poorly designed and unusable, so in 2017 they were torn down.”
Coe Wood Beach has basic facilities, a playground and cabanas to escape the sun. Despite its beauty, it often seems deserted except for a few locals who can be found there throughout the day.