By Jenny Gabruch
Life is flourishing in Grand Cayman. It’s a time of innovation, optimism and forward thinking.
Major projects and developments are taking shape that will strengthen and transform the island’s economic landscape, paving the way for greater opportunity.
In short, seeds are being sown to grow a more diverse and prosperous future.
From commercial ventures and infrastructure upgrades to luxury residential developments, Grand Cayman is embarking on a new era of growth.
Cayman’s luxury accommodation is about to blossom. Several five-star resorts are in the wings that will add hundreds of rooms to Cayman’s hotel inventory, significantly boosting the stay-over tourism sector.
It began last year with the opening of Dart Real Estate’s 266-room Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in West Bay, which set a new standard in luxury travel. It marked the island’s first new resort in a decade, and Kimpton’s first resort outside the U.S. Seafire has earned many accolades, recently being named Development of the Year by the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit.
Among the criteria for this coveted award by the Caribbean’s hotel and tourism investment community is economic impact. Seafire represented an investment of US$309 million during development and construction, employing more than 800 during peak activity. The resort now employs more than 360 people, with 35 percent of staff being Caymanian or permanent residency holders.
“Thoughtfulness, creativity and innovation are inherent to our philosophy of development excellence,” Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate, said in a media release. “In partnership with Dart Development, we collaborate with some of the world’s more forward-thinking architects, landscape architects and interior designers. Every decision was driven by how it would enhance the guest experience.”
And that’s just the beginning of Dart’s ambitious plan to create a luxury “sea-to-sea resort district” stretching from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club on the North Sound to Seven Mile Beach. Preliminary master planning has begun for a five-star resort just north of Seafire that envisions 225 guest rooms, 80 residences and 10 villas, expected to be a Four Seasons.
At the southern tip of Seven Mile Beach, plans are in the works to build a new five-star hotel on the former Pageant Beach site. The $285-million development will include 250 hotel rooms and 100 two-bedroom condominiums, spa, conference facilities, rooftop infinity pool and several food and beverage outlets, including a rooftop bar and grill.
It’s being developed by Miami-based Howard Hospitality Group, which also completed the renovation of the former Treasure Island resort that reopened as the Margaritaville Beach Resort. The resort brand is yet unnamed, but HHG indicated the property will feature a major global hotel flag.
The company is also renovating a three-storey property on West Bay Road as a new 42-room business hotel, to be named Locale.
A 60-unit boutique hotel focusing on wellness-minded travellers is planned on the site of the old Treehouse restaurant, opposite Kirk supermarket in George Town. Being developed by NCB Group, the five-storey hotel will include such wellness amenities as yoga and meditation classes, in-room fitness kits, juice bar and farm-to-table dining. The company expects to break ground before the end of the year, and is aiming to open in 2019.
In the eastern districts, a major development is Ironwood’s Arnold Palmer golf course and resort. Developer Joseph Imparato plans to build a 100-room clubhouse and lodge, along with a luxury hotel and condominiums. The project is a partnership between the Arnold Palmer group and Imparato’s company, City Services Ltd.
Among other tourism developments are a proposed 49-room eco-lodge in Barkers Beach and St. James Point resort, a 200-room hotel with additional residential suites in the Beach Bay area of Bodden Town.
Real Estate Heats Up
Cayman’s real estate market is booming, with numerous high-end residential developments under way across the island.
Industry experts describe the market outlook as highly promising, as demand is outpacing inventory.
“The real estate industry has reached a tipping point, whereby a rising groundswell of demand is outstripping our supply of property,” said Kim Lund, broker/owner of RE/MAX Cayman Islands. “As further infrastructure improvements continue and expand – new hotels, new roads, new airport – demand will only increase, as Cayman becomes a better place to visit and reside.
“We have just entered a market of record sales prices supported by an undersupply of developed property,” he said. “Strong real estate sales are having a ripple effect throughout our economy. The next five-plus years look very promising for development and real estate sales.”
Indeed, there is a high demand along Cayman’s coveted Seven Mile Beach, a prime locale where property prices can reach as high as US$1,300 per square foot. Only one unit remains at The WaterColours, and sales are swift for the 62 luxury residences at Seafire.
Development in South Sound continues unabated. The Sanctuary, developed by TerraMare Properties, comprises 30 garden villas in a gated community. FIN features 36 oceanfront units with numerous amenities including a glass-bottom pool that cantilevers out over the beach.
The 56-unit Vela Phase II, being constructed by Davenport Development, is nearly sold out with another 56 units in Phase III in prospect. Cayman Crossing Phase III is scheduled for completion in late 2017. Tides, a 24-residence beachfront condominium development by NCB Group, is nearing completion. All six of Baraud Development’s upscale Shore Club have been sold.
Waterfront development is growing across the island. Leeward Quay, made up of 17 modern homes, is a new waterfront development in North Sound Estates; SOLARA is a collection of luxury town houses situated in the waterfront community of Crystal Harbour near Seven Mile Beach; The Residences at Stone Island is being developed in the prestigious Yacht Club neighbourhood; and the first of three phases is nearing completion for Boggy Sands, a luxury 20-unit condominium development just steps away from a secluded stretch on Seven Mile Beach.
In the tranquil district of North Side, developer Joseph Imparato is introducing Rum Point Club, a collection of 36 beachfront residences, along with Kembaii Kai, five island-style boating homes located near Rum Point Club.
Other developments coming onstream include SeaHaven, an enclave of 13 island contemporary-style villas wrapping the coastline of tranquil North Sound; and Periwinkle, a new development in Grand Harbour featuring 86 residences, ranging from one to five bedrooms.
Baraud Development will bolster supply with Twenty 40, a collection of luxury townhomes being developed in Governors Harbour.
Along with Cayman’s economic pillars of financial services and tourism, other industries are starting to grow on-island, including Health City Cayman Islands, a medical tourism venture, and Cayman Enterprise City, a mixed-use special economic zone.
The vision of Health City as a world-class medical tourism destination is moving forward, with construction under way on apartments for patients at the East End facility which is part of the larger development plan of High Rock Landing.
High Rock Landing development is building 59 apartments for staff and longer-stay patients along with a commercial building that will house banks, stores and offices.
“We are growing exponentially,” Gene Thompson, director of Health City and one of the principals of Health City Development and High Rock Landing, told the Cayman Compass. “We are seeing international patients from across the region, from the U.S. and Canada.”
Since it’s launch in 2011, Cayman Enterprise City has attracted some 180 technology and knowledge-based companies from across the globe. Its master plan includes construction of a permanent campus near George Town.
Ultimately, the CEC campus would occupy around 850,000 square feet of mixed-use development, to be constructed over 20 years at a cost of $300 million.
To support this growth, major infrastructure upgrades are under way in key sectors, including a $55 million expansion to Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport that will almost triple its size.
The Port Authority is poised for expansion as well. The port envisions Grand Cayman as a central stopping point and regional transport hub. The organisation is preparing for a future that promises to bring much larger vessels, greater foot traffic and more cargo into the George Town waterfront.
Roadwork improvements are moving ahead, including widening the Linford Pierson Highway to four lanes. When complete, the entire length of the highway, all the way to Batabano Road in West Bay, will be a four-lane dual carriage road. The project is being undertaken by Dart Real Estate in conjunction with the National Roads Authority.
Other major developments include the opening of a new three-lane roundabout and elaborate vehicular underpass on the realigned Esterley Tibbetts Highway, next to Camana Bay. The top of the underpass also serves as a pedestrian overpass, linking the Town Centre to West Bay Road.
The 450-foot underpass is the first of its kind in Cayman, and has been designed to support a three-story building on top of it. Special equipment was brought in to construct the underpass, which features an advanced lighting system to allow drivers’ eyes to adjust to the darkness of the passageway along with an industrial-strength ventilation system to maximize air flow through the underpass.
The new roundabout is also a first, as it is the only three-lane traffic circle on the islands. It is the only three-lane traffic circle on the islands. It is the largest to date, with four exits that will soon increase to six.
This latest project brings Dart Real Estate’s investment in infrastructure, which includes the highway extension to West Bay, to more than US$100 million.
The next milestone for the Esterley Tibbetts Highway is for the new northbound two-lane carriageway between the new Camana Bay Town Centre Roundabout and the Camana Bay South Roundabout that connects into the future airport connector road. The project is expected to be completed by fall.
“Infrastructure is more than an economic stimulant, it’s a growth strategy for the Cayman Islands as a place where people want to live, visit and invest,” said Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate.
“The road infrastructure in the Camana Bay area, the completion of the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, the near-completion of The Residences at Seafire and the planned five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach are a testament to Ken Dart’s confidence in the Cayman Islands’ economy and the capacity for the core industries of financial services and tourism to expand,” she said.
Expansion continues in the Town Centre at Camana Bay with the construction of another Class A office building, One Nexus Way. The 86,000-square-foot, four-storey sister building to 18 Forum Lane is expected to be completed by fall.
Other significant developments include the expansion of Cricket Square. Orchid Development recently broke ground on the fifth and latest addition to the upmarket office park. The $20 million, six-storey building will encompass nearly 130,000 square feet and is expected to be completed in 20018.
Another signpost of Cayman’s blossoming economy comes from the latest report from the Economics and Statistics Office that shows the island has experienced five consecutive years of economic growth.
RBC Group economist Marla Dukharan confirmed Cayman’s envious position, telling the audience at the Cayman Economic Outlook conference held earlier this year that the Cayman Islands has the best managed economy in the Caribbean region.
She noted the fact that Cayman generated growth while at the same time having fiscal surpluses is unheard of in the region.
“This is the best run economy in the entire Caribbean,” she said. “You should have a conference and invite all the ministers of finance from around the Caribbean and tell them how to run a country because there is a lot they can learn.”