Ironwood News

Ironwood: Economic driver for Cayman's 'other half'


It is with some pleasure that we take note of Ironwood developer David Moffitt’s estimate that construction of the 10-mile East-West Arterial extension will generate jobs for around 200 people, 95 percent of whom could be Caymanian. Similarly, we are pleased to hear that 75 percent of the road’s $50 million cost will go directly into local pockets.

All good news, for sure.

But the possible impact of Mr. Moffitt’s project, over the long term, is far greater than the creation of temporary positions for laborers, or the one-time injection of funds into the local economy — far greater, even, than the planned $360 million golf resort, taken by itself (though it is, of course, quite an impressive sum).

When we speak of the potential of the Ironwood development, we are talking about nothing less than a complete shift in how investors, businesses, residents and visitors perceive and experience the island of Grand Cayman.
Some 150 years ago, a phrase (of uncertain origin) became synonymous with the American idea of “Manifest Destiny,” encapsulating the hopes and dreams of a generation of pioneers who abandoned cities on the Atlantic seaboard in order to tame the continent’s vast interior: “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”

Similar sentiments (though on a smaller scale, and in the opposite direction) can be expressed in regard to the future of economic activity in Cayman, which heretofore has been concentrated almost wholly on the George Town-Seven Mile Beach corridor. In short: “Go East.”

If Mr. Moffitt’s vision for Ironwood materializes, then the development could act as a brand-new “town center” for the eastern half of the island, the potential of which would be effectively “unlocked” by the new East-West Arterial extension. Put another way, Ironwood and the East-West Arterial could do for the region east of George Town what Camana Bay and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway have done for the region north of George Town.

It is also important to note the synergies between Ironwood (and its residential and commercial components) and the burgeoning Health City Cayman Islands medical complex, which, additionally, in order to grow significantly beyond its initial phase, needs a faster and more direct transportation route from and to the airport. Ironwood’s highway extension would accomplish much of that infrastructure requirement.

The possibilities, at this point, do not come without caveats. We have two primary concerns:

First, the government’s deal with Ironwood will have to pass muster under the borrowing restrictions prescribed by the U.K.’s Framework for Fiscal Responsibility — unless, conceivably, the British government gives its special blessing for this particular arrangement. Mr. Moffitt says Ironwood’s final business case will demonstrate that the government and Caymanian people are getting a good deal. We await confirmation of that assertion with no small degree of anticipation.

Second, unlike the Dart Group’s new extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway (which runs through land owned by Dart), the construction of the East-West Arterial extension will require a diverse group of private property owners to forfeit, sell or otherwise “give up” their land to government so the road can be built.

While we hold the opinion that the countrywide benefits of the new highway appear to outweigh individuals’ losses of their real estate, we remain firm believers in the sacrosanctity of private property rights; accordingly, it behooves government to exercise its powers of “compulsory acquisition” (or “eminent domain”) with great care and sensitivity, and to ensure that landowners receive fair — and swift — compensation in exchange for their property, something that government has arguably failed to do in the past.

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