Downtown is located in central Providenciales and close to the airport, and is home to many Government offices, the Post Office, small restaurants and shops, and the Gustavus Lightbourne Sports Center (a popular location for Town Hall meetings). Although one of the busiest areas on the island, building density tends to be low and spread out, and blends into Kew Town on the northern edge.
Although Downtown was formerly the undisputed center of activity on Providenciales, Grace Bay has now seen more development and it’s likely that the central Grace Bay area will become the closest thing to a ‘city center’ on the island. Due to the lack of a nearby beach, there has historically been no hotels or resorts located in this area, although there are now two small hotels that cater to those visiting the Turks and Caicos on business.
Downtown is actually not one of the oldest settlements on Providenciales and essentially did not exist before the 1980s. Previous to the introduction of tourism to Providenciales, the small coastal settlements of Blue Hills, The Bight and Five Cays were the only places that had more than a few buildings. This district is the location of the Town Center Mall, the country’s first such establishment. This area was also the short-lived location of a local Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise, which closed in the mid 1990s.
The Downtown region of Providenciales was originally low-lying marshland, with shallow ponds, waterways, and mud flats with silver buttonwood groves. Cheshire Hall Creek, the salt ponds to the southeast of Downtown, at one time extended further inland as well.
After the construction of the modern Providenciales International Airport in the 1980s, crushed limestone “quarry” fill was used to raise the ground level of many of the various parcels that saw development. Usually adding 2-3 feet (0.6-1 m) of elevation, at places these works created new drainage issues.
Because of the low elevation, Downtown is susceptible to flooding, both from heavy rainfall and hurricane storm surges. Drainage engineering through both small channels and shallow wells has taken place multiple times over the years, yet remains largely ineffective.