The urban renewal of Georgetown, Grand Cayman Island : an urban design and development guide
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The Cayman Islands are three small Caribbean Islands lying about 150 miles south of Cuba and 200 miles west of Jamaica. This location has offered a physical and social link to the United States of America only 500 miles distant. The Capital, George Town, lies on the western end of the largest island, Grand Cayman. With about 6,000 of the 18,000 total population resident in this area, George Town is the economic and governmental centre of the islands. Today the islands remain a British colony with a history, geography and social context that differs greatly from most Caribbean islands. These islands have known waves of development in the last 20 years usually directed by external forces. As a result, not only are most developments inappropriate for a tropical island, but their influence has, over the years, chipped away at social and traditional institutions. It has now become imperative that a swift and definite hand uncover appropriate issues of urban design and a value system that can be implemented through the planning process. George Town, as a result of the past model of development, is now plagued with a myriad of problems. It has become synonymous with traffic and parking problems, lack of trees to provide shade, no exterior spaces and the lack of diversity. Periodic phases of multi-storey buildings have carved away more and more of the original fabric and provided an identity easily found in any other small developed town in the world. It is now essential that this course be checked and the alternative for urban growth more appropriate for a Caribbean Island, and the Cayman Islands in particular, be presented. The significance of this search becomes greater when one realizes that the sister island, Cayman Brae, is about to move into a period of development and currently has only George Town as a model. This thesis seeks to examine the current urban situation in George Town, determining the changes that have occurred over time, to examine the existing problems and their effect on the character of the urban environment. The research will serve as a platform for the development of urban patterns and planning guides for George Town keys to the future of the town. What should, however, remain clear is that George Town is the economic centre for the banking and tourist industries, the only two of economic importance in the Cayman Islands. As the quality of George Town declines--and it will, if the current development patterns and planning apathy continue--these two crucial industries will be seriously threatened. As tourist destinations compete on an increasing scale, the Cayman Islands will need to present an increasing challenge to remain a popular choice. This challenge should be seen as imperative and long overdue considering that the islands have few historical buildings, museums, crafts or interesting geographical features.