Dart voids Gov’t land offer

Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd. has retracted an offer to give the Cayman Islands Government a piece of land worth millions of dollars as a site for the second government accommodation project.

The 4.3 acre piece of property, which is located on the corner of Lawrence Boulevard and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and known as the Block 12 site, was estimated to be worth at least US$4 million and was offered free of charge to the Government.

Dart Realty (Cayman) Managing Director Mark VanDevelde said there were only two conditions put on the offer, one of which was that it be used for one of the two planned government accommodation projects.

‘The other was that the building had to be consistent with the town of Camana Bay’s architectural and design guidelines,’ Mr. VanDevelde said, adding that the Dart group was open-minded to the adoption of such things as the LEED qualification, which government is pursuing on the first government accommodation project.

After making its formal offer to government in May 2006, the government responded shortly thereafter acknowledging the offer and saying they would consider it, Mr. VanDevelde said.

However, through February of this year, the Dart group heard nothing else from the government directly, although the issue was discussed in the media.

Mr. VanDevelde said that based on the government’s public statements to the media, and to some people associated closely to the project, they determined that the site was not really seriously being considered as an alternative location for the second project.

The Dart group does not know why the government did not want the property it offered for the project, Mr. VanDevelde said.

‘We were told by some of the people involved in the [second government accommodation] project that the Camana Bay site was the top on their list, even before we offered it to them for free.’

Mr. VanDevelde explained that when informal discussions first began, Dart talked about selling the property to the government.

‘We thought that offering the land to them for free, compared to them having to pay for another site, would have thrown it over the top,’ he said.

‘From what we understood, the site was viable for the project and one of the more attractive, if not the most attractive, sites to choose from.’

But instead, the government started talking about putting the building east of central George Town, even though they admitted there were some problems beyond costs with those eastern sites.

In the long interim of making the offer and not hearing back from the government, other entities expressed an interest in the parcel of land offered, Mr. VanDevelde said.

Dart Realty then sent a letter to the Government on 2 February 2007 giving them until 1 March to make a decision on the property.

‘Since we didn’t hear from them, we wanted to know their intentions because we had other interest in the property,’ Mr. VanDevelde said.

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts answered that letter on 8 February, and began by apologising for the tardiness of responding to the Dart offer.

Mr. VanDevelde explained that Mr. Tibbetts indicated that the government was only proceeding with one government accommodation now and that it could not commit to building the second project on the Dart site. For those reasons, Mr. Tibbetts said the government could not accept the offer.

Mr. VanDevelde said it was possible the government could still get the site, even though there is no formal offer anymore.

‘We have not committed to go in another direction [with the land] yet,’ he said. ‘There are no current or urgent demands for that property. But we are pursuing other leads.’

Even if the Block 12 site were to be used for another purpose, Mr. VanDevelde said the Dart group would still be desirous of having a government building either in Camana Bay or on one of the contiguous properties it owns.

‘I think there are some other locations at Camana Bay that could be used,’ he said.

The second project of the Government accommodation project appears to be on hold in any case. In addition to Mr. Tibbetts’ comments to Dart that the government was only proceeding with one project, the government voted last week to reallocate to other places the amount of CI$1.5 million of funds originally budgeted this financial year for the second project.

Mr. VanDevelde said Dart Realty would be open to have other government buildings at Camana Bay.

‘We still would like to have a government office in Camana Bay.’

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