By Vanessa Hansen
Camana Bay is creating quite a bit of buzz in the Caribbean. Located in Grand Cayman, it is a 500 acre mixed-use development on the largest and most heavily populated of the three Cayman Islands.
Dart Realty, the developer behind Camana Bay, has taken a whole new approach to building a community, with attention paid to every minute detail and no expense spared. Instead of starting with residences, which generally bring greatest return, Dart started with a school before moving on to the Town Centre. Next on the agenda will be a recreational park and then the residences. The idea is to create a place where people will want to live. This is not a subdivision, but a cohesive, multi-use village.
In April 2008, the Urban Charrette was held bringing together town planners Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), Cayman Islands government departments, local business owners, residents, and experts in every field related to development. In one week, a master plan was created for the residential phase with a set of guidelines aimed at ensuring cohesiveness of the residences and public space.
Six months later DPZ headed up the Architectural Charrette with international architects: Moore Ruble Yudell, OLIN Partnership, Spillis Candela DMJM, Lake|Flato, Allison Ramsey, Dungan Nequette and Lew Oliver; and local architects: Burns Conolly Group, DDL, Kariba and OBM. It was during this Charrette that CC Magazine was able to catch up with Jared Grimes, Senior Design Manager for Dart Realty, Greg Papay of Lake|Flato, and Cayman architect Burns Conolly of Burns Conolly Group on their way to another round of meetings.
The goals of the intense workshops are to connect the Town Centre to the school with residential space, create a code that is respectful of Grand Cayman, follow the New Urbanism principles and create something uniquely Caymanian and uniquely Camana Bay. Jared Grimes explains, “The guidelines have to be developed for current and future architects.”
A guideline for future generations may be best created by looking to the past. Cayman architect Burns Conolly provides the local expertise on the architecture, history and culture of the Cayman Islands.
Burns explains, “Historically, the environment dictated the design of buildings but Cayman has never really had a residential urban model compared to places such as Charleston, South Carolina. In essence, we are creating a new model but it is based on precedence, the environment and the social component – how people use the space.”
Creating traditional buildings that suit modern needs can be challenging and the group explained that they were testing different forms and styles of architecture, looking at master plan rules and at whether or not the rules work.
The scene is described as “controlled chaos” with hourly interaction, collective discussion, while testing rapid sequences of architectural styles. There is constant creating, analysing and editing.
While establishing balance between tradition, form and function, the team is also tasked with finding a balance between total freedom of expression and total control. On one end of the spectrum you have designs to extremely different that there is no flow, no purpose and the appearance of the lack of a master plan. On the other end of the spectrum you have no creativity, in the words of Malvina Reynolds, “Little boxes just the same.”
Burns Conolly promises, “Camana Bay will provide a host of different building types and living conditions.” This not only creates diversity in the look and feel of the town, but also provides social mobility. For example, a person may move into a loft at The Terraces in the Town Centre, then start a family and move into a small home, and later move into a larger home – all in the same community. Ultimately, Camana Bay is a microcosm of the larger community.
That is why the developers of Camana Bay have spent a great deal of time exploring the needs of the community at all levels of residence, commerce and social fabric.
The master plan and subsequent planning stages also set out to strike a balance between public and private space. The plan incorporates ‘pocket parks’ and pedestrian space, making it conducive to walk from home to the coffee shop, to restaurants, to town, to work.
Attention is paid to every detail and landscape architects OLIN Partnership were brought into the charrette to ensure the landscaping interacts well with the residences.
Designing and building for sustainability has may layers. There is sustainability in terms of disaster mitigation, in terms of style and in terms of the environment. Jared Grimes explains, “We follow the Miami/Dade building codes for hurricane standards because they are the best codes out there.”
The Miami/Dade codes set standards for wind and impact resistance, but the issue of storm surge must also be addressed. To that end, a very distinct mangrove buffer is in place, undulating canals have been designed to slow down the tidal surge and the first floor of living space will be 10 feet above sea level.
During the design phase, they are also looking to reduce energy consumption, incorporating cisterns and solar water heating. Orientation of the buildings is designed to minimise sun exposure and maximise the cooling effects of natural breezes.
The developers are conscientious about how buildings are constructed. They are looking at practical strategies that reduce the energy used in construction, as well as ways to reduce waste. Grimes says, “When all of the systems work together, the benefits are amplified.”
Creating a sustainable, thriving community where people can ‘live, work and play’ requires more than one would find in a typical sub-division.
The school facilities act as an anchor for more than just education. The football pitch is used for local sporting leagues, as are the swimming pool, basketball court and tennis courts. The multi-purpose hall will also be used by both the school and the community.
There there is the large park, described as a gift to the community. The park will be open to all who live in and visit the Cayman Islands and will be in full view of the main road with easy accessibility.
The next step is gaining planning permission. A specific timeline for the first residential phase is not given, but we are told they are moving forward as quickly as possible. Throughout the entire process the group has worked closely with the Cayman Islands Planning Department because some aspects of the development are new. There have been active discussions about how planning regulations can be updated to fit the New Urbanism model, as well as how the developers can work within the current framework.
Once planning approval is achieved the tendering process begins, and Grimes assures that the tendering process begins, and Grimes assures that the tendering process is open to all local contractors on a competitive basis.
Where expertise in specific areas is not available in the Cayman Islands, the developer tries to work out joint ventures where overseas experts will work with local contractors, sharing each other’s expertise.