Camana Bay charrette inspires

Dart Realty’s Camana Bay project is springing up in Grand Cayman, with the first phase of the commercial Town Centre pen, and attention has turned to the residential aspect of the massive project.

Andres Duany

Town Planner Andres Duany recently led a design workshop which explored ideas about how the new Camana Bay development will eventually look.

Over the past few weeks a team headed up by Andres Duany of DPZ town planners, supported by dozens of engineers, architects and designers, held an intensive design workshop known as a charrette at the Camana Bay town centre to flesh out how the 550-acre site may eventually look.

The charrette process also involved a series of meetings with a wide range of government departments and local organisations in an effort to address the concerns and demands of the community.

In the first of two public presentations on the master plan, Mr. Duany explored the New Urbanist philosophy, which DPZ has pioneered for the past 25 years. New Urbanism advocates a mix of residential, commercial and public buildings, created on a human scale to encourage people to walk rather than depend on their cars, essentially encouraging a return to traditional neighbourhood planning values.

”If you continue building the way you are doing at present here in Cayman, it is only going to get worse,’ Mr. Duany warned.

Directing his criticism at planners, legislators, the transportation planners and architects in equal measure, he cited several problems with current conditions in Cayman which are contributing to such problems as traffic congestion.

‘What you have here in Cayman is dead-end planning: you are importing an alien pattern and community, suburban sprawl. As the world changes, even Americans are undergoing complete reform in this mode of thinking,’ he said.

‘There is simply not enough space in Cayman to continue the type of growth that is happening.’

He also emphasised the need to incorporate mixed use neighbourhoods where all kinds of people can live side by side, rejecting the elitism that emerges from gated communities that create artificial divisions between people.

He explained that by mixing densities, while somewhat controlling housing styles creates vibrant communities that young, old, more and less affluent residents can all enjoy.

‘Housing should be mixed. Developers have to a degree invented snobbism where it did not previously exist by building gated communities with cost minimums, leading to a rigorous segregation of income,’ he said.

‘Apartments, buildings, townhouses and mansions can peacefully coexist, especially when they are facing each other, because people relate to the front of their homes.’

He also observed that better planning will not only impact residents but the Island’s tourism product as well.

‘When people travel somewhere, they want to travel to a place that’s much better than where they came from,’ he said.

‘There is only so much that good climate and a nice beach can make a destination desirable. Grand Cayman is starting to resemble the US more and more.’

In the original master plan for Camana Bay conceived by the design team led by Buzz Yudell of Moore Ruble Yudell and Denis McGlade at Olin Partnership, Camana Bay was designed as a series of linked villages stretching from Seven Mile Beach to the North Sound with the town centre at its heart. The charrette’s purpose was to build on the groundwork laid by MRY and Olin to produce a flexible organic master plan.

Representatives from the original design teams, along with Spillis Candela DMJM and project coordinators, the Burns Connolly, group all contributed to the work during the charrette, with a preliminary final plan presented to the public at a packed forum on 15 April.

The design is now more comprehensive with focus points including a beachside sector featuring small rental cottages, an inner harbour connected to the town centre that will act as an aquatic main square, condo and hotel developments near the beach, and exciting mixed-use communities.

In his presentation, Mr. Duany also showed how designers had been asked to imagine the various ways neighbourhoods and streets could look.

Themes in evidence included significant influence from historic Pedro St James, as well as traditional Caymanian cottages, as well as oriental designs.

‘It is not about dictating a building type, it is also about doing something all of the ways a thing can be done,’ said Mr. Duany.

‘We have spent an entire week of thinking of ways to do things, based on good traditional architecture, as well as good modern ideas, so we don’t have to choose one way or the other, we can incorporate it all.’

The project will also feature extensive public space, including a 20-acre park.

‘The park is something that we threw into the mix and we said was non-negotiable,’ said Dart Realty Vice President of Design Sandy Urquhart.

‘The park is one of the first things that will be getting built in the next phase of the development, as a demonstration to the Cayman people that this project is for everyone,’ he said.

In that respect, timing is key, as the construction on the site is anticipated to take 50 years to complete, a timeline that had some people reconsidering their options.

‘Obviously, it is very well thought out. My concern is the decades that were mentioned time and again, in regards to finishing the development,’ said local developer Kim Lund, who attended the presentation.

‘While I was interested from a personal standpoint in terms of possibly acquiring a homesite, the time line really frustrated me. While it is still very impressive and the town core will be great, I am now rethinking my plan to buy for my residence.’

Nevertheless, the ideas presented were well-received from many sectors, including Cayman planning chief Kenneth Ebanks, who predicted the project will have many allies in the Planning Department and the Central Planning Authority.

‘The whole new urbanism approach to solving our problems is a good one,’ he remarked later.

‘Unfortunately, when introduced to Cayman 30 years ago, the idea didn’t work, and instead we ended up introducing exclusion zoning.’

He said that things have changed. There is new legislation in the works that will introduce changes to building regulations and the development plan, with public meetings anticipated to commence this summer.

‘I am pleased with what we saw in terms of the project, and I wish them success. Whatever I can do to assist in the process, I will, and I hope all residents embrace this opportunity, as Camana Bay and the Island can make a mark on the world stage, it certainly is a higher quality of development,’ he said

He said he hoped the designs would help the Island develop a renewed sense of place that will be distinctly Caymanian.

‘I would like to encourage the architects and developers to use this project as an example of what is possible.’

DPZ’s final design is expected to be presented by the end of the month.