By J. Michael Welton, Ocean Home Magazine
Two new towers rising above legendary Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island are striking symbols of a new approach to architecture in the western Caribbean.
They’re starkly modern in a destination that’s more tradition-bound in its resort design. They soar 10 stories high – taller than any building on the island – with sweeping ocean vistas. And they’re built to withstand 150 mph winds, exceeding hurricane standards for Dade County, Fla.
That last part is important. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan ripped through Grand Cayman, devastating a small hotel close to the beach on the 12-acre site.
The result? Owners Dart Real Estate, working with a team of leading designers from Powerstrip Studio in Los Angeles, SB Architects in San Francisco and local architect John Doak, shifted strategies for the property’s development.
Instead of building right on the beach (the most susceptible spot to suffer hurricane damage), they placed their new luxury hotel 500 feet back and paired it side by side with a private residential tower.
They then commissioned top landscape architects EDSA to take advantage of the setback placement and design a master plan for the development. Their vision resulted in terraces rising 24 feet above sea level along with pools, paths, trees, gardens, boulders and bungalows.
And in a brilliant use of what was left of the original hotel, they built an open-air restaurant on top of its foundation that’s now a prime location for viewing Grand Cayman’s spectacular Caribbean sunsets.
“The idea was to create a new narrative for Grand Cayman,” says Dayna Lee, partner in Powerstrip Studio. “It’s a nice evolution for the island.”
Dart Real Estate sought a design that would ensure an exceptional experience for guests as soon as they walk into the new Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, perched on Grand Cayman’s western shoreline.
An early drawing by Powerstrip’s Ted Berner transformed that request from concept into reality.
“Ted sketched the lobby as a clear glass box where you have a view of the water and the sparkle of the sunset,” Lee says. “Now there’s this big gush of air in the glass box when you walk in. You say, ‘Omigosh, I’ve arrived!’ ”
From that moment forward, the resort’s amenities take over: the spa with seven treatment rooms and a signature plunge pool, the 1,770-square-foot fitness center with ocean views, four dining venues and morning coffee and evening wine receptions in the library.
Other amenities for active guests include daily fitness classes, beach yoga, paddleboard yoga and an impressive array of water toys, including floating rafts to lounge on, kayaks and a sailboat for exploring the area. And everyone loves the stunning views from all 266 guestrooms and suites.
All of the resort amenities are also available to anyone who purchases units in the neighboring tower, the Residences at Seafire.
There are 62 of them, ranging from 600-square-foot studio apartments to a pair of 4000-square-foot deluxe penthouses. Scheduled for completion in the third quarter of this year, 17 are already under contract with prices ranging from $1 million to $8 million.
“All of the residences have water views of the Caribbean Sea and the North Sound,” says Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate.
“In the lower part, the units face the Caribbean and the sound, while the top three floors have a straight-through view of the morning sunrise over the sound and the evening sunsets and stars at night,” she adds.
Plus, each unit has a view of those lush terraces leading down to Seven Mile Beach. As it turns out, that landscape design has its own name. “We call it the Valley of Awesomeness,” Doak says.
That means the views at ground level are just as enticing as those from 10 stories up.