Development from a Dart perspective is like an orchestra of musicians and instruments working together to create a symphony of buildings and places whose whole is greater than the sum of their individual parts.
Every orchestra needs a conductor and at Dart Development, that person is Justin Howe, Senior Vice President Development & Engineering. On any given day, Howe is coordinating dozens of people who are part of multiple teams working on multiple projects on Grand Cayman.
“At the moment we have seven strategic objective projects in various stages,” he says. “We have teams of people working on all of them, so I’m working with those teams of people to keep everything moving along and heading in the right direction.”
There are many musicians in Dart Development’s orchestra: There’s an in-house design team and a construction management team. There are also teams or individuals outside Dart Development that deal with procurement, business planning and analytics; cost estimating and quality surveying; property management; leasing; sales; marketing; and communications.
Then there’s a whole subcontractor section of the orchestra that includes architects and lead designers; structural engineers; mechanical, electrical and plumbing providers; fire engineers; interior designers; lighting engineers; vertical transportation engineers; acoustic engineers; LEED-certified consultants; and various other consultants and specialists.
“I’m managing and trying to coordinate all of those different inputs and getting them done at the right time to keep projects on track and on schedule,” Howe says.
It’s not just one project at a time that Howe is managing, but multiple, unique complicated projects in various stages of development. If that sounds like a difficult task, it’s because it is.
“They’re all big, complicated projects, and big investments,” Howe says. “And with the building management systems and the technology that is now embedded in the buildings, they are getting more and more complicated all the time.”
Getting everything done would be impossible for Howe without others. “Obviously, there’s no way one person can do all of this,” he says. “You have to have a good team.”
The core of Dart Development’s team, which is headed by President Cameron Graham, has worked together for a decade.
Howe joined Dart in 2003, having first come to Cayman to work as a civil engineer on The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa in 1994. Many of the other core Dart Development team members have been with the company from before Camana Bay was started.
“We’ve worked together for a long time now, which means that everybody knows everybody very well, we get on very well, and we understand the strengths, weaknesses and particular interests of everybody else,” says Howe. “And that all makes us a good, highly performing team.”
Beyond the internal team, Dart Development has engaged top firms from the United States for various aspects of its projects. “We’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with really good people. The architects, designers and landscape architects we work with are really top-drawer firms – really smart, creative people,” Howe says, adding that working with such talented and knowledgeable professionals helps continually develop and keep current the skills of the Dart Development team members.
Howe realises how fortunate he is to get to work on projects like Camana Bay. “Some people go through their whole working careers in construction and don’t have the chance to work on something as special as Camana Bay in terms of the quality and attention to detail,” he says. “There is a relentless focus on innovation and continuous improvement.”
Camana Bay’s intricacies, from a design, construction and landscaping perspective, are all intended to benefit the experience of the development’s users – those who work, live or visit Camana Bay, Howe says.
“You can find that in the master planning of the buildings, which used wind modelling to maximise pedestrian comfort,” he says. “You can find that in the office buildings, which were designed to offer views of the gardens and landscape to improve staff wellness and productivity. And you can find that in many other aspects of Camana Bay.”
The benefits of Camana Bay extend even farther, though, Howe said. “It’s genuinely for the betterment of Cayman and it has led to Cayman progressing,” he says. “I find that very rewarding.”
Just because the quality is high doesn’t mean, as some might suggest, that money is no object when it comes to Dart’s developments.
“That couldn’t be less true,” says Howe. “It is expressed to us from day one that we want to treat every dollar like it’s our own. That’s the attitude we all have. The Dart family has chosen to make this a very long-term investment and a very special property and that means investing more in the quality of the built product. However, we still want to do it as cost efficiently as we can; we’re just doing it with a better quality of materials.”
Illustrating his point, Howe says that when you compare the first buildings in Camana Bay’s Town Centre – which opened 10 years ago in 2007 – with others on the island around the same age, it’s easy to see which have aged better.
“But that takes a bigger investment to be able to add that integrity to the structures,” he says, adding that Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Residences at Seafire have both been built to the same high standards of quality. “They will stand the test of time,” he says.
In October, the new Class A office building in Camana Bay – One Nexus Way – is scheduled for completion. By that time, there will several other Dart Development projects under way, including another office building in Camana Bay and, if all goes as planned, a new five-star resort on Seven Mile Beach in the planning stages.
As much as Howe says he looks forward to the challenge of another luxury hotel, the project he’d really like to get started on involves the long-awaited residential element of Camana Bay, which is still yet to come.
“When you look at the different asset classes owned by Dart … office is great; retail is great; in hospitality, Seafire has taken Cayman to a different level; education – you can check that box with Cayman International School. But what we need is to get the residential product out there so that more than 62 families can call Camana Bay home.”
The residential build-out is coming, but like everything Dart does, there must be a careful, analytical assessment of what is needed first.
“Because of our commitment to quality and our extraordinary attention to detail, we want to ensure we get the residential offering right, that what we provide is what consumers want,” he says.
When that happens, Howe will have the challenge of conducting an even bigger and more complicated orchestra. Luckily, he has a great ear for the music of development.