NRA Agreement Signed

The Premier announced today that the Government and Dart (Realty) Ltd. had signed the National Roads Authority (NRA) Agreement, a sub-component of the ForCayman Investment Alliance agreement.

In his opening comments, Premier Bush said that “Signing this agreement will immediately impact the economy. It will create jobs; put people to work; give local businesses project contracts; and allow Caymanians, who have been unemployed and are in financial constraints, to start actively working to save their homes and feed their families.”

Building on that sentiment, Mrs Jackie Doak, COO Dart (Realty) Ltd. said that “Government and Dart are acutely aware of the immediate need to get Caymanians back to work and signing this Agreement, in advance of the ForCayman Investment Alliance agreement, allows projects to start which will do just that – get Caymanians back to work.”

The NRA Agreement encapsulates a group of projects along the West Bay Road Corridor ranging from the redevelopment of a closed Seven Mile Beach Hotel (the former Courtyard by Marriott) to major roads infrastructure projects.

The agreements calls for:

  • The closure of a section of West Bay Road which will facilitate the redevelopment of a new four- to five-star hotel and other future resort development opportunities;
  • Redevelopment of the hotel to start within 12 months;
  • The completion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway from its current ending point to Batabano Road;
  • The extension of Reverend Blackman Road to connect Willie Farrington Drive to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway;
  • The construction of a new road to Barkers National Park; and
  • The release of US$5M, of the ForCayman Investment Alliance’s negotiated US$20.5M for educational, community and training programmes, which will be used for a residential mortgage arrears assistance programme, and education, parks and housing initiatives.

Hotel Redevelopment

The Seven Mile Beach Hotel, slated for redevelopment into a four- to five-star hotel, has been closed since 2008. Feasibility studies are underway which will determine brand affiliation, service amenities and final design attributes and with the signing of the NRA Agreement this phase of the redevelopment plan will now be accelerated.

Members of the tourism industry, and of particular note of the accommodations sector, have expressed their support of this redevelopment plan acknowledging that it will stimulate Cayman’s tourism industry and economic growth by adding new room stock, creating jobs in the short and long term and creating new business opportunities. Additionally, Dart has already spent over $1.2M on improvements to make the site/building safe and ready for redevelopment.

Of particular interest to the community is that fact that, although the closure of a portion of West Bay Road will take place, only vehicular access will be impacted. Vehicles will be re-routed (see attached image) but pedestrians and bikers will have access to a thoughtfully designed, meandering bike trail between Governor’s Way and Yacht Club which will preserve both access to the beach and vistas.

Major Roads Infrastructure

Esterley Tibbetts Highway, Reverend Blackman Drive and a new road to Barkers National Park.

The Esterley Tibbetts Highway has been a planned component of the national road network for many years. This, and previous, governments have not had the funds to complete it and without private sector investment it will not be completed in the near future. The terms of the NRA Agreement do not call for any Government expenditure and do not call for Government to pay any money back. The construction value of the major road infrastructure projects is approximately US$35M and it will be funded by Dart. Dart will be able to recover US$24M in concessions; however, the recovery of these concessions requires that Dart keep investing and developing on the island.

The northward extension and completion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway will improve access between George Town and West Bay. The extension will be a modern, multiple lane highway designed to meet all local regulations and with minimal egress points to maintain traffic flow. It will have sufficient carrying capacity for existing and future traffic and will not be as susceptible to hurricane damage and flooding.

Reverend Blackman Road will be extended so that it connects the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Willie Farrington Drive. This extended connector road will improve traffic flow within West Bay for those wishing to access and use the Highway. And the new road to Barkers National Park will improve public access to the road.

Community Funding

As a component of the ForCayman Investment Alliance agreement, Government successfully negotiated US$20.5M for educational, community and training programmes. Of this $20.5M, US$5M will be released with the signing of the NRA Agreement. Of this initial $5M, $2.5M will be used for the Saving Homes, Residential Mortgage Arrears Programme and the balance will be used for education, affordable housing and parks.

A committee will be established to oversee the Saving Homes, Residential Mortgage Arrears Programme which will be chaired by Ms Sonia McLaughlin, Chief Officer with responsibility for Finance in the Ministry of Finance, Tourism & Development. The committee will assess the needs of applicants and will, for those who are successful, award a one-time $10K allowance with subsequent assistance provided for up to three mortgage payments, with the total of the funds awarded not to exceed $20K in total. And, because the purpose of this programme is to assist those who are facing the loss of their homes the Governments goal is to give those successful applicants up to 50 years to repay the funds, and this way we will ensure that the funds borrowed – which save their homes – do not become a burden to repay.

The Government and Dart believe that this signing of the NRA Agreement is the first step towards economic recovery for the Cayman Islands and is significant because it will allow 2012 to begin with jobs, opportunities and hope for many Caymanians who have had none for far too long now.