Go East, Young Man

A quick look at an aerial image of Grand Cayman will highlight one clear fact which is that 98 per cent of all development over the last 40 years has occurred west of Savannah.

Given that the centres of tourism and banking revolve around George Town and Seven Mile Beach, that development pattern is logical.

However, this is all about to change. The economic landscape is about to alter radically with the event of several major developments coming to the eastern districts.

It has been clear that the eastern districts have always been the “dorm” areas on Grand Cayman providing homes for those working in the two economic centres, a fact that is clearly shown in the census with Bodden Town being the fastest-growing district and now possibly containing more people than even West Bay.

These eastern districts have the largest area of habitable, inexpensive and available land, thus it is a natural progression for the growth and development opportunities to move there.

Several major developments that will now change the population and economic landscape in these islands have been announced.

Foremost is the Health City development and associated construction surrounding it.

Recent planning approvals have been granted to its master-planned zone and the community surrounding the new tertiary hospital complex, which was originally known as the Shetty Hospital.
Health City is planned to be built over the next 15 years and to contain a 2,000 bed hospital, hotel and a medical school. The surrounding areas have additional hotels, condominiums, apartments, homes, offices, retail stores, service stations, supermarkets and the like.

It has been suggested that between eight to 10,000 people will work in Health City when it is fully operational.

Simultaneously, it has been suggested that overnight arrivals at the airport will double or triple in the same time. Phase one of the hospital went into construction late last year and is expected to come online in first quarter of 2014, so the impact has begun.

In addition to Health City another development of 430 acres, called Ironwood, which contains a golf course and sporting centre, is planned for the area near the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in the Frank Sound region.

Given the needs of the projected level of population and visitors just for these two developments alone, including everything from housing and entertainment to social services, the eastern district is about to experience growth similar to the expansion of George Town in the 1970s.

Land prices in the vicinity of both developments, as well as the coastline from Bodden Town around East End to North Side, will show a rapid increase in value.

It is anticipated that aside from these noted projects, several other developers are actively looking at major developments in the eastern district to capitalise on anticipated population growth and needs.

The new Clifton Hunter High School will now allow residents to live, work and play in their districts rather than having to make the daily compulsory trip to the western side of Grand Cayman for work and schooling.
There will come a point where the residents will not have to travel to the western side of the island daily, nor even weekly, as all services will be found east of Bodden Town.

One key issue that this population shift will create is the need for additional infrastructure. It is clear that the road, electrical and communication infrastructure in the eastern region will have to be developed and expanded.
The east-west bypass which is conceptually planned should be now programmed financially at this point. The major utility providers need to follow suit.

The infrastructure for the first phases of these developments is already in place, However if we are going to add 10 to 20,000 persons to the eastern districts, long-term planning is essential at this time.

In conclusion, we are about to see a major growth burst in the eastern district that will change the distribution of the population on Grand Cayman.

Real estate values will be impacted as more developers recognise opportunities in proximity to the announced mega-developments. Everything from jobs, to entertainment, to services will be found there. It is clear that the time to “Go East, Young Man” is now.