By Michael Klein
Spend just an afternoon strolling through the beautifully landscaped courtyards and pedestrian-friendly spaces of Camana Bay and there should be no doubt as to why the Town adopted the tagline “Life Blossoms”. These two words, while simple and understated, encapsulate the vision for a new way of living in Grand Cayman. Thoughtfully conceived, Camana Bay has never waivered from its guiding philosophy: to establish and grow a town where life truly blossoms – a place to live, work, learn and play.
One might assume the visionaries behind Grand Cayman’s newest community are overly idealistic, perhaps even utopian. Until you visit Camana Bay. Once uncovered and explored, Camana Bay is that extraordinary place – a truly unique and accessible community brimming with possibilities. And, while it seems to have taken just a few short years to create their vision, the reality is, the dream for Camana Bay began several decades ago.
Peer into the history of Camana Bay and one will discover that Grand Cayman’s new community came about quite accidentally – well, at least at the start. In the late 1980s, members of the Dart family visited the Cayman Islands on vacation and were immediately enchanted by the destination and its people. They were equally impressed with the sophisticated infrastructure, and upon further exploration, the seed for an idea began to take form. Following this unplanned encounter with destiny, Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd was formed and set about creating a vision for Camana Bay. But there’s nothing accidental about the way Dart Realty has designed and managed the 500 acre community, which includes a school, office and residential spaces, retail areas, parks, sporting facilities and much more. Indeed, one visit to Camana Bay and it immediately becomes apparent that attention to detail is a hallmark of the company.
Dart Realty’s design team embraced “blue sky” thinking when setting out to plan Camana Bay. It is this philosophy that brought the team of planners to an unusual decision in the world of real estate. Mindful of building a community rather than just erecting buildings, the Dart team took the intrepid step of creating the core of the community – the School and the Town Centre – first.
Unlike traditional community developments which sell residential and office space before building the infrastructure that binds a community together, Camana Bay chose to do the exact opposite. It was a bold move indeed, but it also ensured that as families and businesses moved to Camana Bay, the community would already exist. The architectural model for Camana Bay is based on New Urbanism. Not “truly” new, New Urbanism encompasses town planning principles from centuries past. This design philosophy reinforces a sense of community with a mix of housing, shops, civic space, schools and parks, interconnected by green spaces and gardens, and all easily traversable by foot or bicycle.
Dart even established a nursery at the outset so that as Camana Bay came into being, it would be furnished with mature and distinctively Caymanian native shrubs and trees. This unique vision – the only New Urbanist community in the Caribbean – has resulted in a vibrant blend of spaces that make up Camana Bay. The development describes itself as “mixed-use” and it undoubtedly delivers on all fronts. Stunningly landscaped walkways connect to a captivating labyrinth of living spaces. The Town is already home to numerous quality retail shops, a 24-hour gym, a state-of-the-art multiplex cinema, acclaimed dining establishments, cafés and even a bookshop to rival those found in New York, Miami or other world-class cities. Numerous gardens and green spaces surround commercial office space, the Cayman Islands International School and the beginnings of residential areas. The most recent addition to Camana Bay is the Crescent.
Modelled after a European town square, this area is where the Town Centre culminates and numerous community events, including concerts and festivals, are now held throughout the year.
Situated along a waterfront area that is aptly dubbed, the Harbour, the Crescent encourages community gathering with its boardwalk, spectacular fountains and shaded seating areas, creating the ideal setting for a stroll, alfresco dining or simply some time to while away the day. A further recent addition is the 75-foot Observation Tower, providing a spectacular 360-degree view of the island of Grand Cayman. Indeed the entire design concept of the Town, and its supporting areas, ensures that it is a place for everyone. In fact, this guiding principle of creating a place that Dart Realty says is “for Cayman and of Cayman” is visible in the care and thoughtfulness taken on every design aspect.
Architecturally, the buildings have all been crafted to offer a distinctly modern twist on traditional Caribbean design, ensuring a community that grows with the times, but is still rooted in history.
The team of visionaries also took incredible care to harness nature’s elements, ensuring that buildings and residences were positioned to best benefit from Cayman’s prevailing breezes.
Employing cutting-edge sun shade modelling software, the designers created light-filtering sunshades and louvers to help mitigate the heat and glare of the Caribbean sun and reduce energy consumption.
From the architectural details and lighting fixtures, to the use of fountains and gardens, every element at Camana Bay serves a distinct purpose and has been painstakingly deliberated to ensure maximum benefit for all. Both socially and economically, the Town has created enormous benefit to the community at large and supports one of Cayman’s most vital industries – tourism. From a visitor perspective, Camana Bay is a unique draw, offering all the comforts of home but in a distinctly Caymanian environment. Dart’s master plan has been carefully overseen to ensure quality and aesthetics that fit within Cayman’s existing communities. Local contractors and the workforce have been employed throughout the entire design process. This commitment to the country is also evident in the various organisations that receive support from the DART Foundation. Through charitable donations and support of social initiatives, Dart is demonstrating its enduring promise to the people of the Cayman Islands: to foster a sense of community.
It is this significance of returning to traditional values while pioneering the new that sets Camana Bay apart from traditional developers. Weaving itself into the fabric of Caymanian life, Camana Bay has an energy that is reflective of both the past and the present. By its very design it fosters the time-honoured values of family, community living and knowing thy neighbour, while simultaneously promoting a modern, green lifestyle that offers everything one could ever need, right outside their door.
And what comes next at Camana Bay promises to be equally awe-inspiring. The development is now in a new phase of creation, designing an array of residential choices including single-family homes, town houses and condominiums to add to the Terraces apartments, which have already been built in the Town Centre. Plans include a series of neighbourhoods with homes to suit a wide variety of lifestyles and budgets.
Playing to its strengths, Camana Bay will provide many homes with waterfront views and a public boardwalk will further cultivate that sense of community. Porch and courtyard features are also key, encouraging gathering among neighbours while taking full advantage of the Caribbean climate. Camana Bay has also thoughtfully designed the Discovery Centre. This high-tech welcome centre features touch screens which allow visitors to take a virtual journey through the Town. Designed to engage both visitors and those weighing the option to buy, the Discovery Centre is anything but your regular, run-of-the-mill home design centre.
The future of Camana Bay is indeed bright. Expected to continue growing for the next few decades, clearly Dart’s initial decision, to create the heart of the community first, has paid off in spades. Camana Bay is everything they dreamed it would be, and much more. A place where life truly blossoms.