Foster’s supermarket has applied for the relocation of a public right-of-way and the relocation and recreation of an old Caymanian home to make way for the expansion of the Republix supermarket.
In the application, which is set to go before the Central Planning Authority on Wednesday, 13 Oct., Foster’s is requesting permission to expand the Republix supermarket by 11,094 square feet and to build an additional 190 parking spaces.
The expansion is expected to cost $2.2 million; to achieve this, the new building would be added onto the west of the current structure which would require the joining of the plot of land on which the supermarket is currently built with the immediate two westerly plots.
This will require The Bridge right-of-way, which is a strip of government-registered public-owned land to be relocated to the new western boundary of the new plot of land. The Bridge right-of-way is a footpath which runs through a portion of red mangrove swamps behind the Republix supermarket. It was once used by the public to access the beach.
In its submission to the CPA, the Department of Environment expressed several reservations about the proposed plans.
“The applicant has proposed on their architectural plans to leave a right of way along the boundary of the parcel, however this is not in its original location,” wrote the DoE, noting the historical significance of The Bridge and Ms Aldine Franklin’s home.
The DoE added, “…[A]ccording to the Historic Advisory Committee of the National Trust, the Applicant has agreed to replace the sign and not block access. Under the applicant’s proposals, a Crown-owned public road with historical significance would be lost and replaced with an access over private property nearby. The Department does not consider this to be an equal trade, given that the applicant has not detailed the finishes or treatment with respect to the right-of-way to know if it would enhance the heritage asset in any way.”
In a letter attached to their application, Foster’s said they consulted the West Bay Heritage Committee, which provided their approval of the relocation of the right-of-way and signage.
“We note that the ‘Right of Way’ is proposed to be relocated and is included as a part of the natural landscape,” reads the letter. “The revised location of the ‘The Bridge’ would be a more accurate reflection of why the bridge was indeed necessary in the olden days. This path and landscape could remain. Additionally, the proposed grade can be contoured to allow the swamp area and mangroves to remain as a flood rain period collection area.”
In their application, Foster’s said the original approval for the Republix supermarket, which was granted in 2009, included the condition for the relocation and paving of the right-of-way to what would be the new westerly boundary – which was granted at the time.
The Ms Aldine Franklin House
The old Caymanian home – F.C. and Aldine Franklin’s House – also has to be relocated, in order for the new project to be completed.
According to the DoE, the Aldine Franklin home is believed to have been built in 1908 by Samuel Matthew Ebanks III. It is registered with the Cayman Islands Heritage Register as WB 019 and is protected under the 1997 Development Plan, as a it falls with a Historic Overlay Zone.
“The plans state, “existing house to be demolished” and in its place, there are proposed to be 8 parking spaces and part of the parking lot turning area,” writes the DoE.
It added, “Heritage is finite, and to demolish the house to build 8 parking spaces does not seem a wise use of this heritage asset. We recommend that the applicant redesigns the parking lot to preserve the house [by leaving it in its original location].”
In its application, Foster’s noted that the home has had some repairs which altered the authenticity of the property. Those repairs include the tiling over of the wooden floor, the coating of the external wattle and daub walls with cement and the alteration of the roof to accommodate an expansion of the building.
“We feel that it is not a feasible to properly restore the existing house to its original state and that the above proposal presents reasonable options for addressing the points raised by the Department of Environment to help preserve the important historical past,” reads the letter from Foster’s.
If the application is approved, the Aldine Franklin home would be demolished and relocated to a new site in North Side, where it would be recreated.
The proposal has been met with criticism across several social media platforms, with several people expressing their dismay for relocating the home to make way for a parking lot.
Cayman Compass reached out to the Foster’s group for comment, but a response had not been received by publication.