Before construction on Camana Bay commenced back in April 2005, Dart’s design team spent years master-planning the development.
That design team envisioned Camana Bay as a series of linked villages stretching from Seven Mile Beach to the North Sound, with the Town Centre at its heart. In the years since, however, Camana Bay has evolved. The acquisition of additional land adjoining the property is part of that evolution, but other factors have also played a role. The build-out of more residential property was put on hold at the same time that the demand for premium office space led to continual construction of new office buildings.
Camana Bay’s evolution has also been spurred on by better ideas, like the one to realign the Esterley Tibbetts Highway westward and to build underpasses that not only improve the walkability of Camana Bay, but also enable the Town Centre to expand with more continuity.
As the Dart group readies to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Town Centre’s opening in November, its design team has been busy this year considering how to incorporate future expansion in a way that remains true to Camana Bay’s master plan.
This year, Dart has held a series of meetings and workshops that have focused on looking at how Camana Bay should expand in terms of office, residential and retail offerings, as well as how to incorporate parking and landscaping to support that expansion.
One workshop held over four days in June was conducted by Red Propeller, a Seattle-based real estate development consulting company. In addition to Dart staff, participants included some of Grand Cayman’s top realtors, as well as Camana Bay tenants.
The collaborative approach to planning Camana Bay’s expansion also brought leading architects from the United States to the Cayman Islands, including Greg Papay of the San Antonio-based Lake|Flato, the architecture firm that designed the 18 Forum Lane building and the One Nexus Way building that is currently under construction. As leaders in sustainable design, Lake|Flato helped 18 Forum Lane become the Caribbean’s first certified LEED Gold mixed-use commercial building.
Papay knows Camana Bay well, having first worked with Dart on the development during the charrettes – collaborative design meetings – held in 2008. Getting everyone together now to look at Camana Bay’s expansion in a connected way makes sense, he says.
“There are several projects that are next in line and we’re associated with one of them,” he says. “All three of the projects are probably separated by a quarter mile each, but they all should be part of a connected tissue of landscape, circulation and connectivity that already makes the Town Centre so nice. So rather than having each firm design in isolation and then possibly leaving gaps, Dart decided to get all three firms in, talk about the projects together and come up with a conceptual framework for tying all this together.”
In many places in the world, there are developments with great buildings, developments with beautiful landscapes, and developments with smart infrastructure, Papay says.
“But it’s actually pretty rare that the integration of those three things is done as sensitively as it is at Camana Bay,” he said. “This is actually a world-class development. It’s not just good for the Cayman Islands, or good for the Caribbean; it can stand up to almost any development that you would place it against in the U.S. or Europe or Asia with the thoughtfulness of integrating all those pieces together.”
Papay says it’s easy to take Camana Bay’s design elements for granted for those who see it often.
“I probably come down just infrequently enough that every time I come back, I’m like, ‘this is pretty amazing,’” he says. “What seems so self-evident and obvious and effortless is the result of a huge amount of process. The process to get to what Camana Bay has is exceedingly complex, not for the sake of being complicated, but when you try to think about integrating all those things together, you have to
be really thoughtful from the very beginning.”
Dart has also engaged some new talent to work on Camana Bay, including STUDIOS Architecture. Employing 320 architects in offices located in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris and Mumbai, STUDIOS has worked on projects around the world.
Brian Pilot, a principal with STUDIOS, said the firm is specifically looking at master-planning the block of development that will eventually happen in what is now the surface parking lot next to 89 Nexus Way. The initial concept has four components in the block: two office buildings, a residential building and a parking structure.
Since STUDIOS is new to Camana Bay and to the Cayman Islands, Pilot said the first step was learning as much as it could about them both.
“A big part of our process is to gain a deep understanding of the site, of the culture, the history, the evolution of the entire development, then developing a deep understanding of what the client’s roles are and their vision of the project,” he says, adding that he and his team started by “walking every inch” of Camana Bay. The fact that Camana Bay has been master-planned will make the job of Pilot and his team easier.
“There is an extraordinary idea that Camana Bay is founded on and there’s been a commitment to that idea in every project that has happened since the beginning,” Pilot says. “So in many ways it makes it really easy for our team to come down because there’s this incredibly legible plan in place for to us to then leverage and build upon.”
One of the key aspects of Camana Bay that STUDIOS Architecture wants to build upon is the existing sense of place, Pilot says.
“We want to plan the block and create an architecture that supports the sense of place that’s already here, that dovetails beautifully with the larger master plan,” he says. “So each of the four components of this particular block will be thoughtful in the way it connects to the road network, to the pedestrian network, to the bike network, and to the overall spirit of Camana Bay. But we’re also hoping to bring some new ideas.