In the seven weeks since the general election, the ruling People’s Progressive Movement-led government had not met with the Dart Group, the country’s biggest developer, despite uncertainties around the ForCayman Investment Alliance forged between the previous United Democratic Party government and Dart.
The lack of a single tête-à-tête was confirmed last week by Dart, which had officially announced that its new Seven Mile Beach resort will be branded as a Kimpton hotel.
Meeting soon come?
“We’ve invited government to discuss our progress on a number of different projects, and we are looking forward to meeting with them in the near future,” Dart Realty spokeswoman Melissa Ladley said.
On Wednesday, the Caymanian Compass emailed Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin asking him why the new government had not met with Dart, if there had been other types of discussion, or if there is a meeting planned in the near future. As of press time Sunday, Mr. McLaughlin had not responded to Compass requests for comment.
On Thursday, Dart Realty spokeswoman Connie Buchanan said, “We will be meeting with government to discuss our progress on various projects, including the NRA agreement.”
Former Premier McKeeva Bush, now opposition leader, said he awaits the outcome of such a meeting between government and Dart.
“Certainly for the sake of improvements in our economy, those matters need to be resolved quickly. The country needs those developments now. The economy is getting worse and more and more people are hurting,” Mr. Bush wrote in an email.
Yes to road, no landfill
With a price tag of US$170 million, the new 10-storey Kimpton will be located on the site of the former Courtyard Marriott, which had stood vacant since Hurricane Paloma struck in late 2008. The redevelopment project was facilitated by a portion of the alliance called the “National Roads Authority Agreement” that involves the closure of an adjacent stretch of West Bay Road and extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway into West Bay.
Ms Ladley said the final phase of the new highway is on track to open in mid-to-late July, once Caribbean Utilities Company lighting is complete and the National Roads Authority has finalised its safety audits.
The National Roads Authority agreement was signed and subsequently amended two times. Dart withdrew from further negotiations with government in May without finalising a third amendment.
Other aspects of the alliance involve the closure and remediation of the existing George Town landfill and opening of a new waste management facility in between Bodden Town and Breakers. That portion of negotiations did not result in a final signed agreement.
During the new Cabinet’s first press briefing in early June, government minister and Bodden Town representative Osbourne Bodden said definitively that his district would not host a new landfill.
He said, “We’re going to sit and talk to all the stakeholders … but I can say it’s not going in Bodden Town.”
Dart’s interests align with closing and remediating the George Town landfill, which is immediately south of Camana Bay. The landfill closure would allow Dart to expand the residential component of its mixed-use development.
In the meantime, Dart is busy working on a new four-storey commercial building at 18 Forum Lane in Camana Bay. The foundation work for the 85,000-square-foot commercial building (with retail on the ground floor and offices on the three upper floors) started last week. Construction is scheduled to take about 18 months.
Reports by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the National Roads Authority agreement refer to other potential new hotels to be developed by Dart. However, the agreement does not require Dart to build anything other than its current hotel development.
“Our focus is on the Kimpton project before turning attention to any other resort developments,” Ms Ladley said.