By Michael Klein
When Camana Bay officially opened in 2007, Caymanian residents were introduced to a unique design – New Urbanism.
This design movement advocates pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods that are diverse in use and population, with universally accessible public spaces and community institutions.
John Hillman, director of sales at Camana Bay, says while the incredible design element of this new town is important, Camana Bay is also creating an environment for people to meet and “enjoy an array of entertainment and dining options and really just linger and feel very comfortable doing so. We talk about New Urbanism but it is really about urbanism, about bringing people together in a place, giving them a multitude of things to do,” Mr Hillman says.
The first facilities in the town centre, such as the cinema, cafe, restaurant and shops, have attracted a steady influx of visitors.
A regular “coffee crowd” began to form a weekend morning ritual of watching their children play in the water features and fountains on the Paseo.
At the same time, Camana Bay is also very much a place of business, with the central business district (CBD) currently engaging more than 700 people in a variety of businesses.
Camana Bay’s mission, to grow a thoughtfully designed town that is home to a vibrant and enduring community, continued to take shape last summer, when The Terraces, Camana Bay’s first residential properties, were unveiled on the Crescent, at the waterfront of the town centre.
“I don’t want us to be seen as a development or master plan community, these are the wrong words,” says Mr Hillman. “We are an evolving town”
This ongoing evolution has seen the establishment of the heart of the town centre, with shopping, dining and business facilities, and a first set of 61 apartments, with more than 100 residents.
The properties were leased quickly, filling the town with a sense of life on a 24-hour basis.
In 2010, the next stage of organic growth will see the development of a residential neighbourhood connecting the town centre with Cayman International School.
In this first neighbourhood, Camana Bay will release, during the course of the year, a mix of condos, townhouses, single family homes and design-built customised homes, fronting the canal or the school.
“We have come up with a very interesting array of residences for sale, and for rent. Unique products that will be unveiled here,” Mr Hillman explains.
He says his aim is to surprise Cayman with a range of price points to create the same varied community that already exists at The Terraces, which has residents aged 19 to over 80 years old, including singles and couples, with or without children.
“I can assure you we are not the next million dollar neighbourhood for every home,” he says. “It will be that a teacher at Cayman International School and people who work in town at varying levels will have an opportunity to live at Camana Bay, whether they rent or buy.”
A general concept of New Urbanism, and thus Camana Bay, is the creation of a neighbourhood that does require the use of a car. All streets in Camana Bay will have two sets of sidewalks and proper lighting, inviting people to get out of their homes and walk or cycle safely through the neighbourhoods.
A key signature will be the availability of open spaces in the form of parks and access to the waterfront.
“You don’t have to live on the waterfront canal lot or home to enjoy the water. We will have parks on the water, so you can live by the school and walk to the water very easily,” Mr Hillman says.
No one park will be the same, he explains. Where one park might cater for families, another may be designed for dog owners or people who want to play dominoes.
Landscaping will represent important design elements for the new neighbourhoods, as they do for Camana Bay as a whole.
“We made a conscious decision 15 years ago to build a nursery and to have the plant life that we would need for this town,” Mr Hillman explains.
This effort has turned into one of the largest contained nurseries in the Western Hemisphere.
“When we deliver a street in this new neighbourhood or every other area of Camana Bay, we deliver it with very mature foliage and horticulture,” Mr Hillman says.
The use of indigenous vegetation is also important for the creation of shade.
As a result, Camana Bay’s design focuses not only on the vertical buildings but also the horizontal landscape.
“And we are also mindful to the use of light, so that at night time the place is just as exciting as it is during the day,” he says.
Designers preserved the local feel through a modern interpretation of Cayman-style homes in shutters, porches and balconies.
Buildings were constructed to take advantage of a natural cooling breeze and channel it into courtyards or the centre of the Paseo.
The use of colours is also a reflection of traditional Caymanian architecture, evident in the preference for pastel colours, such as soft pinks and baby blues.
Combining these design elements and bringing all the different uses of the town, from shopping and entertainment to business and residential, together at the same time makes them worth more than they are individually by themselves, says Mr Hillman.
With all the factors working together, Camana Bay promises to have something for everyone.