The worldwide recession has cast a pall over the Cayman Islands construction industry, but amid the general doldrums, a handful of developers have pursued ambitious plans, though not all have materialised into brick and mortar.
A Journal analysis of planning records for the past several years shows the outsize role of major players such as the Dart Group and Health City Cayman Islands, particularly as the market’s general sector struggles as a whole. The Journal’s analysis is based on minutes of Central Planning Authority meetings from January 2010 to June 2013, as well as lists of projects approved administratively by the Planning Department since January 2011.
During that time period, Dart companies received planning approval for some $50 million worth of projects, including buildings at Camana Bay, groundwork for the new Seven Mile Beach hotel, the renovation of the Cayman Distributors headquarters, a new marina at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club, and preparations for the waste management facility proposed between Bodden Town and Breakers.
That $50 million includes February 2010 approval of a $28 million plan for a four-storey mixed-use building in Block 5 of Camana Bay, which was delayed so Dart could instead pursue the Solaris Avenue Building on the bay waterfront. However, the $50 million does not include new plans for a four-storey building on Block 5 that the planning authority approved during its 26 June meeting, the minutes of which have not yet been made public.
The overall figure also does not include Dart’s $132 million plans for the former Courtyard Marriott site, consisting of two 10-storey Kimpton hotel and condo buildings, set to open in 2016. Nor does it include money Dart spent building the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension to West Bay.
Dart companies that have received planning approval for projects since January 2010 include Blossom Estates, Cayman Distributors, Cayman Shores Development, CIYCAM, Crymble Landholdings, Dart Realty (Cayman), DECCO, IHC Properties and Shoreline Development. While Dart’s impact has been felt most in the Seven Mile Beach area of West Bay and George Town, the company has also pursued plans in downtown George Town, as well as at the proposed landfill site in Bodden Town.
In contrast to Dart’s myriad projects led by subsidiaries, the estimated investment of the Health City Cayman Islands medical tourism development (previously known as the Dr. Devi Shetty hospital or Narayana Cayman University Medical Centre) is rather easy to quantify. In February 2013, the planning authority approved the Health City developer’s application to build a $50 million, 140-bed hospital off Sea View Road in East End. Work is now well under way on the first phase of the medical tourism project.
Meanwhile, planning officials have approved three separate Planned Area Development applications that prescribe the land use for the overall project, which is expected to cost some US$2 billion, include 2,000 beds and be built in phases over the next 15 years.
In addition to hospital facilities, the overall development calls for medical and nursing schools, hotels, commercial and retail areas, apartments and homes, assisted living accommodations, restaurants and civic buildings.
Besides Dart and Health City, five other entities broke the $10 million mark on successful planning applications since 2010. That includes three developers who already had significant capital investments in the country, Cricket Square ($15.6 million), Cayman Coves Limited ($14.2 million) and Foster’s Food Fair ($13.0 million).
The major project for Cricket Square is the five-storey Willow House office building in the business park between Elgin Avenue and Shedden Road. Construction began in mid-2011 and finished at the end of 2012.
The project attributed to Cayman Coves is a luxury housing development in South Sound, on the seaside of South Church Street near Denham Thompson Way. Called Casa Luna, the development consists of 18 owner-occupied houses next to Dart Family Park. Behind Casa Luna is longtime Cayman Islands and Jamaica developer Hugh Hart, who in mid-2012 said between US$30 million and US$40 million is being invested in the project. At the time, the deadline for completion of construction was 2014.
The project by Foster’s is a 75,000-square-foot distribution centre near the airport’s long-term parking lot. Work on the project began in early 2012 and ended late in the year.
The other two entities with more than $10 million in planning approvals are Greg Vasic (of Caribbean Network Solutions) and UK-based land company Crown Acquisitions Worldwide (also called Crown World).
Vasic’s application was for a $11.8 million, four-storey commercial and document storage building off Owen Roberts Drive. The application was approved in May 2010.
Crown World’s $10.3 million in planning approvals consisted mainly of a $6 million apartment building off Rum Point Drive in North Sound, and a $3.5 million 115-lot subdivision on land formerly occupied by Breakers Speedway.
In addition to its plans in Grand Cayman, the company – which buys land and sells it online – also has approval for multiple subdivisions on the Sister Islands.
Although large developments stand out, smaller projects, such as houses, are also important to the property sector and have become more so during the past several years as the market has slowed.
In the Economics and Statistics Office’s Compendium of Statistics 2012, the planning department provides figures indicating that the total value of planning approvals has dropped significantly during each year from 2008-2012.
In 2008, planning approvals totalled nearly $509 million. In 2012, the total was less than $171 million, a decline of 66 per cent. During that time, the value of approved houses has remained comparatively stable, and with each year, houses have represented a greater percentage of overall approvals.
In 2008, houses worth $118 million made up 23 per cent of overall planning approvals, by value. In 2012, houses worth $86 million made up 50 per cent of overall planning approvals.