Property and Development
The Cayman Islands construction sector has taken a beating since the global financial crisis. However, there are a few bright spots on the horizon with tourism projects from developers with local histories. That general trend seems to hold true for the Caribbean region, where brands familiar to Cayman are increasing their presence.
Currently, Grand Cayman has no less than four significant tourism developments on tap or underway: the Dart Group’s Kimpton hotel on Seven Mile Beach, the long-awaited revitalization of the former Hyatt property, Health City Cayman Islands in East End and the Morritt Properties expansion in Colliers.
In September, Dart received planning permission to go ahead with its US$200 million Kimpton resort development near Public Beach, enabled by the razing of the former Courtyard Marriott and closure of a section of West Bay Road in exchange for Dart extending the Esterley Tibbetts Highway into West Bay.
Dart’s resort project consists of what will be Cayman’s first pair of 10-story buildings, one for a 265-room hotel and one containing 61 condos. The project also includes six beachfront bungalows. The hotel will have five restaurants and lounges, including a restaurant in the lobby and one on the rooftop. The opening date for the hotel is late 2016.
Kimpton is a San Francisco-based boutique-style hotel chain known for its restaurants.
The chain, which has 62 hotels in the United States, has embarked on an expansion plan to nearly double the number of its properties over the next five years. Cayman’s hotel is its first overseas project, though a Kimpton in London is also being discussed. In April, Kimpton’s director of international sales Cindy Brewster said most of the new Kimptons will be rebrands of existing properties, and the ground-up build of the new Cayman hotel is a bit unusual for them.
The U.S. firm designing Cayman’s Kimpton is SB Architects, which is based in Miami and San Francisco.
In September, SB Architects won a “project of the year” award from the South Florida/Caribbean Council of the Urban Land Institute for the firm’s design of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. The Puerto Rico resort opened in December 2012.
Dorado Beach is one of three Ritz-Carlton properties to open in the past year, in addition to properties in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Vienna, Austria. In September, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announced a global expansion plan and its intention to open 21 new properties by 2016, bringing the number of Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts up to 100 worldwide.
While many of the new properties are in Asia, closer to home a much-anticipated Ritz-Carlton resort is set to open in Aruba before the end of this year.
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba will have 320 oceanfront rooms and suites on Palm Beach and is the seventh Ritz-Carlton property in the Caribbean and Mexico. Unlike Cayman’s Ritz-Carlton, the Aruba resort will have a 24-hour casino.
In September, Playa Hotels and Resorts announced it had completed its acquisition of the Ritz-Carlton resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The 13-year-old property is being rebranded as the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, meaning the departure of the Ritz-Carlton brand from Jamaica.
Set to open in early 2014, the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall will be a family-oriented all-inclusive resort. The Hyatt Ziva brand, along with the adult-oriented Hyatt Zilara brand, represent the Hyatt company’s foray into the all-inclusive market. Later this year, a Hyatt Ziva will open in Cancun and a Hyatt Zilara will open in Los Cabos, Mexico. Three more Hyatt all-inclusive resorts are set to open in 2014 and 2015.
Beach Suites, Hyatt Regency
The Hyatt brand left Cayman at the end of 2007 after 20 years in the country. The inland portion of the former Hyatt Regency hotel has been shuttered since Hurricane Ivan devastated the property in September 2004. The 53-room oceanfront portion of the resort was renovated and reopened shortly after the storm, and it now operates as Grand Cayman Beach Suites.
While the 263-room inland hotel building has been vacant for nine years, Hyatt Regency owners Embassy Investments has been battling insurers in court. After years of offers, counteroffers, threats and actions in several jurisdictions, it now appears the end may be in sight for local litigation, which has already made its way up through the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal.
In fall 2012, the owners executed a partial demolition of the inland building, reducing the structure to its skeleton.
Currently, Embassy Investments is seeking to increase the height of the existing Beach Suites building and is asking to rezone the inland portion of its property in order to facilitate a redevelopment.
The owners plan to add two stories to the five-story Beach Suites building, increasing the structure’s height from about 63 feet to more than 93 feet above sea level. The two floors will be added to the portion of the L-shaped building parallel to West Bay Road and will accommodate 18 extra suites. According to the planning application, the estimated cost of the project is $4 million.
When the Hyatt was built in 1986, the maximum height for a building in the core Seven Mile Beach area was five stories. The law now allows for 10 stories.
With that in mind, the owners want to rezone the inland portion of the property, which now has building ranging from two to five stories, to allow for 10-story buildings.
Rumors have abounded that the former Hyatt will be turned into a new Hilton hotel, but until the rezoning application is submitted, the owners have remained quiet about their plans. According to planning documents, “The proposed rezone is to facilitate the redevelopment of the former inland Hyatt Regency hotel site into a complex inclusive of: hotel, restaurant, spa, one and two bedroom condos, a conference center and retail buildings.”
Health City, Morritt’s
Tourism development in Cayman isn’t exclusive to Seven Mile Beach. In East End, Health City Cayman Islands is barreling toward the February 2014 opening of its initial 140-bed hospital. Developers said in August they hoped to file a planning application for a five-story, 180-room hotel and begin construction in the first quarter of 2014. The hotel and hospital will be connected via a second-story walkway, and the hotel will be designed to accommodate patients and their families, so that medical staff can train family members on how to assist in the recovery process.
In Colliers, Morritt Properties is undertaking a $58 million expansion. The first component, the five-story seafront Londoner building, is set to open in February 2014. In September, the resort revealed that its next steps will be to build a 58-unit condo block, dubbed Wimbledon Village, and including two tennis courts, a clubhouse and swimming pool.
Next to the Wimbledon Village, Morritt’s is constructing a new mixed-use building with eight commercial units on the ground floor (including a Starbucks coffeehouse) and eight residential units on the top two floors.
On the seaside, the resort plans to build a new five-story building with about 15 to 20 units for sale.