Developer Mike Ryan announced this week details of a 360-arce, multi-use project that incorporates The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman property and the land development formerly known as SafeHaven.
The Central Planning Authority heard the application for the new aspects of the combined project on Wednesday. It approved the first phase of the project, but adjourned pending the submission of further information on the other two phases.
The project, which will be called Dragon Bay, will take between 15 and 20 years to complete. If it receives Planning approval, it will include a marina village, a boutique hotel, a new public beach on the North Sound, more restaurants and shops, and an 18-hole championship golf course.
Mr. Ryan said the project would be ‘hugely beneficial for Cayman’ and have an economic impact of more than $2.4 billion according to a recent study done by Deloitte.
Financing for the project has already been secured, Mr. Ryan said.
‘We were very fortunate to get that in place before the [global economic] meltdown. I’m one of the rare guys that have financing,’ he said, adding that having completed the Ritz-Carlton hotel made it easier for him to secure financing for the rest of the project.
Despite the world’s economic woes, Mr. Ryan said it was good time to develop Dragon Bay.
‘We continue to have great confidence in Cayman’s future and this is why we are prepared to make this commitment to the future of Cayman’s tourism and development,’ he said.
‘This is a tremendous opportunity for Cayman to push itself forward while many other jurisdictions in the region are going backwards. It is really a chance to make Cayman the premier destination in the region.’
Mr. Ryan said that project would be an extension of the current Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman development. The Ritz-Carlton has the rights to brand and manage the entire project, but there might be aspects of it that they don’t manage, depending on what they are.
‘But it will all be connected,’ Mr. Ryan said. ‘This will all be one seamless project.’
CPA Chairman Dalkeith Bothwell confirmed that a coastal works licence for the whole project had been approved.
The costal works licence, however, has been issued subject to a list of conditions that must be met by the developer, including the conducting of an environmental impact study.
The first phase that the Planning Authority approved entails the redevelopment of the Port Authority marina that was in between the Ritz property and the old SafeHaven property.
Mr. Bothwell confirmed that was the phase approved by the CPA on Wednesday.
‘The redevelopment [of the public marina] has already been agreed between the Port Authority and the developer,’ he said. ‘It also has the blessing of the Ministry [of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce] and Cabinet.’
The redevelopment of the former SafeHaven property will entail an extensive excavation of property, which Mr. Ryan calls a reshaping for that development.
‘The underlying principal is to create a water-based community linked to the existing Ritz-Carlton Resort project through an expanded series of canals surrounding a group of island neighbourhoods,’ he said.
A little less than 800,000 cubic yards will be excavated. Mr. Ryan said that amount is less than what was excavated for the Camana Bay and Crystal Harbour projects.
The redevelopment of the Port Authority marina will be maintained by Mr. Ryan’s development company and will become known as the Port Authority Marina at Dragon Bay.
‘We build it, but it’s theirs,’ said Mr. Ryan of the Port Authority marina. ‘They own it.’
The excavation of the SafeHaven site will not involve any removal of mangrove.
‘There is no mangrove on this property,’ he said. ‘This property was cleared, filled and developed 20 years ago.’
However, Mr. Ryan said that as part of the proposal, the Government would lease the mangrove island just offshore of the property to his development. Much of the mangrove on the island is dead and littered with debris from Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
‘We will be cleaning it up and restoring it and adding more mangrove,’ Mr. Ryan said. ‘So there will be a net increase in mangrove in there when we’re done.’
The reshaping of the former SafeHaven property will also include adding nine more holes to the Blue Tip Golf Course to make it a professional-calibre course.
‘We’ll create an 18-hole championship golf course that could host PGA tournaments,’ Mr. Ryan said, noting that pro golfer Greg Norman had already worked on the design of the new course.
The current North Sound Golf Club will remain open as it is through at least the end of this year, Mr. Ryan said.
Timing of construction of the project will depend on when final planning approval is obtained.
Mr. Bothwell said phases two and three were adjourned pending the submission of more information, such as the environmental impact assessment and a vehicular traffic assessment.
Dragon Bay could eventually include performing arts areas, a school, a church and a variety of commercial opportunities, Mr. Ryan said. He added that unlike some other community-like developments, he sees Dragon Bay being more organic in nature, meaning it will take on a life of its own and grow accordingly to the needs of the people living and working there.