One of the few companies that have been relatively impervious to the overall economy in recent years has been Dart. In the words of the group, Dart’s commitment to the Cayman Islands and its developments transcends business trends, economic cycles and political change. Yet 2013 will mark a turning point for Dart as its developments will have an even greater impact on both residents and visitors.
Entering 2013 the company’s most visible development, Camana Bay continues to grow as a location for business, shopping, dining and recreation. The Town Centre now includes 41 shops and restaurants, and 33 corporate businesses maintain their offices there. More than 1,000 people either live at The Terraces or come to work at Camana Bay each day.
But according to Dart’s Chief Executive Officer Mark VanDevelde, the most important numbers are not readily apparent to the average visitor to the Town Centre.
“Since the first shovel hit the ground at Camana Bay, more than 200 local companies have been contracted and jobs provided for over 4,000 workers,” he says. “Camana Bay’s total impact on the Cayman economy is estimated at $826 million to date, and work continues.”
Immediate plans for the Town Centre include an enlarged public facility for glass and aluminium recycling. In addition Dart is assessing the market needs for new office space, says VanDevelde, “As we are 93 per cent leased.”
Yacht club and marina
Dart believes 2013 will mark a watershed year for the group in that its developments will have greater impact than ever before on the more than 300,000 visitors who come to the island each year. According to Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak, the company evaluates each project to see if it aligns with the group’s corporate objectives, supports national prosperity and enhances the quality of life for residents and visitors.
“One project we have begun is the refurbishment of the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and Marina, which will provide an enhanced tourism product that can be used to market the Island as a whole,” she says. “More than 700 people pass through the Yacht Club each day; many of these are visitors for whom the Club is their gateway to the North Sound and Stingray City. The West Bay road corridor and tourism industry need a marina that delivers a visitor experience befitting this stunning natural resource.”
The Yacht Club has had negligible improvement since the cleanups immediately following Hurricane Ivan. There were still some submerged boats in the harbour as recently as last summer. Dart’s $6 million redevelopment includes cleaning out that debris, installing new state-of-the-art walkways, docks and anchorage systems and comprehensive landside improvements.
Moreover, parking, lighting, landscaping and road access to chandlery services, pump out stations and fuel docks are being overhauled.
Dart is also moving forward with its redevelopment of the site of the former Courtyard Marriott in 2013.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to conceive and develop an innovative resort adjacent to some of the most spectacular beachfront in the Caribbean,” says Doak. “We want to create an innovative hotel where the guest experience helps to transform the tourism product on Grand Cayman, one that helps the entire destination compete regionally.”
The new hotel fills a long-standing gap in the Island’s room stock levels and help grow the tourism market as a whole, rather than compete with existing hotels, Doak says. To achieve that, its design process remains flexible and details will be released early in 2013.
“The hotel design project hasn’t been a linear process; it’s more like a series of creative swirls in which we and our partners develop ideas and continually re-evaluate and refine them to ensure we’re on the right path. Every hotelier in the Caribbean has a long list of items he wishes the owner/developer had done differently; we’re working to incorporate lessons learned from the regional resort experience and insights from resort developments around the world before we unveil plans for the hotel in the spring,” says Doak.
Esterley Tibbetts Highway
In early 2013 Dart will also mark the completion of the first phase of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension. Work now reaches as far as Yacht Club Drive and is expected to open to motorists within a couple of months.
Despite some public criticism of the highway extension, and simultaneous closure of parts of Seven Mile Beach Road to enable the beach development for the Courtyard Marriott, Dart believes the multi-lane highway will alleviate traffic congestion from West Bay to George Town and the community will fully realise the road’s benefit, including multiple access routes to West Bay, once it opens.
“The new Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension is two lanes each way, with a bike lane in the shoulder and a median, and therefore has capacity built in to allow traffic flow even if one lane has to be closed, as was the case during the construction between Governor’s Harbour roundabout and Raleigh Drive,” says Doak. “This first phase of road improvements is just the beginning of $35 million in infrastructure projects outlined in our NRA agreement.”
Additional features focus on improving the recreational aspects of the road and public beach development.
“The bike paths along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension and the new West Bay Beach Park adjacent to Public Beach will provide residents and visitors with acres of walking paths and bike trails along with picnic spaces, plentiful shade, play areas for children including water features,” Doak says. “An enhanced car park will provide ample parking with a drop off area just steps from the beach, making it easy for Caymanians to continue to enjoy beach barbecues and all their favourite activities.”
She adds Dart has worked closely with the watersports operators and restaurants that do business on Public Beach as well as with sporting organisations to ensure what is being designed will enhance the beach experience for residents and visitors.