Owners seek to increase height of Beach Suites

The owners of Grand Cayman Beach Suites plan to turn the five-story hotel into Seven Mile Beach’s newest seven-story hotel by adding two floors to the building.

Meanwhile, owner Embassy Investments is seeking to rezone portions of the area surrounding the inland portion of the former Hyatt Regency hotel to facilitate the redevelopment of a new resort that could be 10 stories tall.

The former Hyatt has sat dormant since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, as the property owner continues to battle over insurance claims in court.

Beach Suites addition

According to Department of Planning records, Beach Suites owners plan to increase the height of the ocean-side hotel from about 63 feet to more than 93 feet above sea level.

The maximum height for buildings in that area is 130 feet, or 10 stories.

The two floors, which will be added to the portion of the L-shaped building that is parallel to West Bay Road, will accommodate 18 extra suites, ranging in size from 419 square feet to 507 square feet. The total additional space is more than 12,900 square feet.

Property firm DDL Studio created the plans, which are dated Aug. 29.

According to the planning application, the estimated cost of the project is $4 million, with $1.5 million for materials and $2.5 million for labor.

It’s not unprecedented in the Cayman Islands for a project to increase its height to take advantage of changes in zoning guidelines. For example, the height of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, was increased from five to seven stories, and The WaterColours luxury condominiums was increased from seven to nine stories. However, the additional floors for those two projects were incorporated while the buildings were still under construction, not after they had been in operation for years.

When the Hyatt was built in 1986, the maximum height for a building in the core Seven Mile Beach area was five stories. The law was changed in 2003 to allow for seven stories and again in 2010 to allow for 10 stories.

Hyatt rezone

With those updates in mind, the property owners are seeking to rezone the area surrounding the vacant inland hotel site. The area on which the former Hyatt sits is a “split-zoned site,” according to planning records, consisting of Hotel/Tourism (allowing for 10-story buildings) and Neighborhood Commercial (allowing three-story buildings), with Low Density Residential to the north.

The property owners want it all to be zoned Hotel/Tourism.

According to the agenda of the Central Planning Authority’s meeting Sept. 4, “the proposed rezone is to facilitate the redevelopment of the former inland Hyatt Regency hotel site into a complex inclusive of: hotel, restaurant, spa, one and two bedroom condos, a conference center and retail buildings.”

The existing buildings on the site range from two to five stories.

The planning department supported most of the application, saying, “As the area of land zoned [Neighborhood Commercial] is situated between the existing [Hotel/Tourism] land and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, the proposed change from [Neighborhood Commercial] to [Hotel/Tourism] appears to be a logical extension of the [Hotel/Tourism] zone that would facilitate a more economic redevelopment of the former hotel site.”

The department did not support changing the Low Density Residential zoning for a relatively small area to the north (about the size of a house lot).

Although the minutes of the Planning Authority’s Sept. 4 meeting have not yet been published, the planning department’s eTrakit website indicates the rezoning application has been forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for lawmakers’ consideration.

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