Over the last four decades the skyline of downtown George Town has changed significantly and much of that change has been down to the financial service sector’s need for ever increasing and sophisticated office accommodation.
The diversity and success of Cayman’s commercial construction business, in turn, owes much to the islands’ flourishing offshore business.
Steve Hawley, president of the Cayman Construction Association explained that the demand for quality space has pushed Cayman’s construction industry to higher standards.
‘The financial industry in Cayman has been responsible for the use of many advanced, high-quality construction materials and techniques,’ he said. ‘The fact that the financial industry opens this area up, results in other sectors being exposed to state-of-the-art materials. Many advanced materials end up coming into common use in other sectors, resulting in a high-quality image for Cayman in general.’
Mr. Hawley believes that over the years finance and construction have grown together and in tandem. ‘It’s hard to imagine now, but when the Barclay’s Bank Building was built on Cardinal Avenue in the 1960s, it was a big advancement for Cayman. This was followed, around 1970, by the CIBC building, the Scotia Building, the Royal Bank Building and others. Before then, luxuries such as elevators were unheard of in Cayman. In the 80s, the present Walkers Building was built on Mary Street. At that time, it was quite up-to-date. However, in comparison to the new Walkers Building, it now seems archaic. At each step along the way, Cayman’s construction industry has advanced to keep up with each higher level demanded. It has all been interesting and will continue to be as we move forward in the future,’ he added.
Expected to be completed before the end of this year the new iconic, Walkers building, built by McAlpine, continues that trend. The constant need for more sophisticated office space within the offshore sector led Walkers down the road of creating their own new headquarters.
“We decided to build our new state of the art headquarters from scratch simply because there was no suitable building in Grand Cayman that could meet our requirements and provide the potential for future expansion,” said Diarmad Murray, the partner at Walkers responsible for the new building. “By incorporating environmental features into the cutting edge design, the finished result will embody our commitment to excellence and innovation, providing a working environment that will make our employees proud and what we believe will be a landmark for the whole country.”
More than a dozen local firms have worked on the building during its design and construction fuelling work for hundreds of people from the furniture designers to the men laying the asphalt. HSBC and Butterfield Bank have also moved in to new state of the art buildings this year and with phase II of Citrus Grove due to start soon it is easy to see how much the construction sector is dependent on the drive within the financial community for new space.
Over at Camana Bay Susanna Blackburn explained one of the factors behind the Dart family’s decision to create a new town was Cayman’s role as an offshore financial centre. With a vision to create a mixed use community securing Ernst & Young and Cayman National Bank – a global accounting firm and a local bank – as anchor tenants was very important. The first building to be completed in Camana Bay was 62 Forum Lane, the financial centre.
‘Demand for Class A office space has been so strong that we have brought forward construction of the next commercial office building – a 129,000 sq ft building which is 70 percent pre-leased,’ added Blackburn who said the demand for office space continues to be stronger than Dart had originally anticipated.
Blackburn also said that Camana Bay pushes the boundaries in technology and design because there are firms here that demand and need this type of high end accommodation that is hurricane proof and fitted with superior communication technology.
‘In the Control and Command Centre, Camana Bay’s communications and security hub, we have 17 disaster recovery suites which can be hired by companies either at Camana Bay or elsewhere on the island – and have been working with Brac Informatics on redundancy,’ she added.
By demanding more the financial services sector has created a strong and stable construction industry in the Cayman Islands that is continually raising its game to meet the needs of the growing offshore business.
‘While financial services feed directly into the Cayman economy from the income generated in and the jobs it creates it also supports many other parts of the domestic economy indirectly,’ said a release from the Cayman Islands Financial Service Association. ‘The construction industry is one of many beneficiaries of our business growth and job creation as the sector needs state of the art accommodation.’
Often considered as something separate and apart from the day to day lives of the Cayman people, the financial service sector is intricately woven throughout the fabric of Cayman society. Directly and indirectly the offshore business in Cayman is very much onshore when it comes to feeding the local construction industry.