Building up the economy

Another year gone by, another year closer (maybe) to the start and completion of major projects that have been hanging over the head of the Cayman Islands. 


People’s expectations have been fixed on ambitious proposals such as Dr. Devi Shetty’s hospital, Cayman Enterprise City, George Town cruise berthing and the airport expansion, that have been touted as potential defibrillators of the country’s stalled economy. In the meanwhile, however, several substantial projects were finished in 2012 and many more are currently under way, including several by the Dart Group. 


Ribbon cuttings 

A quartet of large office buildings were finished this year, bringing about a significant increase in the amount of commercial space on the market. The new buildings are 94 Solaris Avenue in Camana Bay, Willow House in Cricket Square, Walkers building on Elgin Avenue and Appleby Tower on Fort Street. 

RE/MAX broker/owner Kim Lund said, “These buildings have added approximately 200,000 square feet of new commercial office space to the market. The impact is that Grand Cayman now has an inventory of facilities available in Class A, B, and C buildings that can readily accommodate business, whether new or expanding, of almost any size.” 

The five-storey, 68,000-square-foot Solaris building had a total construction cost of US$20 million. Construction started in January 2011 and finished May 2012. 

Lund said the continuing build-out of Camana Bay portends well for the Islands. 

“As they continue to add new Class A commercial office buildings, fill in their retail space, and begin to develop their residential component, this increasing critical mass is having more and more impact and significance to the economy,” he said. 

The five-storey, 58,600-square-foot Willow House had an estimated cost of $15 million. Construction started in July 2011 and finished in December 2012. 

Construction on the seven-storey, roughly 80,000-square-foot Walkers building started in February 2007 and was originally scheduled to be finished in January 2009. The original cost for the building and the land was estimated to be US$31 million. The building has been substantially complete for years, but the law firm’s move-in date was pushed back due to problems with the building’s smoke ventilation system and ensuing wrangling over costs, sources have told Cayman Free Press. The building’s first tenant Intertrust Cayman officially moved in 10 December, 2012. 

The six-storey, 41,000-square-foot Appleby Tower had an estimated cost of $6.1 million, and complements the two existing buildings on site. Construction started in the first quarter of 2011 and was wrapping up at the end of 2012. 

Other projects completed this year include the large distribution centre for Foster’s Food Fair IGA and the Clifton Hunter High School. 

Located in the developing Airport Commercial Park, the 75,000-square-foot Foster’s warehouse is about 450 feet long, 240 feet wide and 50 feet tall. The estimated cost of the project was $12.5 million. Construction started in January 2012 and finished in October 2012. 

The new high school in Frank Sound opened its doors to students in September 2012. No media have been allowed to tour the campus, though government officials have been given tours since October. In March, Minister of Education Rolston Anglin said the high school, which has about 840 students, would cost $100 million. 

If that estimate holds true, that means the cost of the high school is more than the combined cost of the Solaris Avenue building, Willow House, Walkers building, Appleby Tower and Foster’s distribution centre. 


Under construction 

The array of ongoing projects includes luxury residences, hotels and commercial endeavours. 

Lund highlighted the WaterColours Residences (of which he is part of the development team). With an estimated cost of US$200 million, the nine-storey condo development is the tallest building in Cayman. Construction started in November 2010 and completion is scheduled for late 2013. 

Lund said, “This is significant, in that it has some very unique attributes. It is the only condominium development under construction on Seven Mile Beach; it is the highest building in the Cayman Islands at 9 stories, in the height of 10 stories”. 

Just up the road, the 52,900-square-foot Caribbean Plaza is taking shape. Work on the multi-storey office and retail development began in early 2012. The project, which is meant to complement the Caribbean Club across the street, was originally estimated to cost $12 million, but since has been reduced in size. 

On the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, the owners of the former Hyatt are conducting an interior demolition of the dilapidated property. Then-premier McKeeva Bush said in early November that the property will become a Hilton, and sources have told Cayman Free Press that the owners intend to redevelop the property into a four-star business hotel and spa. (Property representatives have neither confirmed nor denied this information, other than to say in mid-November that no contracts had been signed.) 

In South Sound, long-time Cayman and Jamaica developer Hugh Hart is driving the creation of a luxury development comprising 18 owner-occupied houses on four seaside acres near the intersection of South Church Street and Denham Thompson Way. Hart estimated that US$30 million-US$40 million would be invested in the project. 

Above ground construction began in summer 2012, with a completion date set for early 2014. 

In the Airport Commercial Park, development of the Barcadere Marina is continuing. The marina first opened in 2008. Construction of the Scotts Marine showroom began in late 2010 and was finished in mid-2012. Construction of the George Town Yacht Club began December 2011, with a slated opening in February 2013. 

The overall Barcadere project is a 20-acre, mixed-use development with boat slips, boat lift, chandlery, boatyard and clubhouse. Future additions include a retail village, hotel and condos, over the next five years or so. 



The For Cayman Investment Alliance between the government and Dart includes the closure of a section of West Bay Road, extension of Esterley Tibbetts Highway to West Bay, redevelopment of the former Courtyard by Marriott, closure and remediation of the George Town landfill, and opening a new solid waste facility in the district of Bodden Town. 

In November, Bush said the former Courtyard will be branded as a Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant, which is a US-based boutique hotel chain. 

While the company has neither confirmed nor denied the identity of the hotel chain, on 6 June the Dart Group signed a letter of intent with a US boutique hotel brand to manage the former Courtyard , according to Dart Realty’s chief executive officer Mark VanDevelde. 

The closure of the current landfill will allow Dart to forge ahead with the residential component of Camana Bay. Dart is also working on revamping the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. 

Other future possibilities (the plans for which are in the conceptualisation phase) include other new hotels, as well as a new golf course on undeveloped land east of the highway extension. 

When asked what the most significant impending development project is, Lund answered, “No question, this will be the removal of the section of West Bay Road and the tremendous development of infrastructure that will result. What was once a section of prime beachfront, virtually unusable for development due to the proximity of the road, has now afforded an enormous opportunity to this country. Cayman will benefit from new hotels, new condominium development, and additional new resort facilities that will bring in countless millions to billions of dollars of revenue to the economy and government, as well as many thousands of new jobs over the next few decades.” 


On the horizon 

Other major projects, of varying degrees of certainty, are in the works, on the drawing table and in the planning process.  

Lund singled out the proposed medical tourism development in East End. Three separate ‘planned area development’ applications have been submitted to the Department of Planning, along with an application for the hospital itself. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Health City Cayman Islands project was held in August. 

Lund said, “Dr. Shetty’s health city, Narayana Cayman University Medical Center, just starting construction in 2012, is nothing short of massive in terms of its significance and impact to the Cayman Islands’ economy. Not only will the medical centre bring a new industry of medical tourism, but the supporting infrastructure that will be built on this 250 acre property is truly incredible, over the long term.” 

Also east of George Town, there are two proposals for golf course developments, one in Frank Sound and one in the Savannah area. 

Meanwhile, Cayman Enterprise City has earmarked a Savannah site for its physical campus when it has enough tenants signed up. Currently the special economic zone tenants are operating out of leased space in George Town. 

A Canadian government-owned company and Cayman officials are discussing a US$200 million proposal to double the capacity of Owen Roberts International Airport and extend the runway, in exchange for a 30 to 40 year concession contract. According to a proposal made public in October, the funding would be raised from private sources, and the concession structure follows the same one used in the Canadian Commercial Corporation’s ongoing US$700 million Quito International Airport project in Ecuador. 

Cruise berthing talks between China Harbour Engineering Company and Cayman officials foundered after UK officials said the cruise port proposal would have to go through an approved tendering process.