Developer Dart Realty is seeking permission to remove “beach rocks” from shallow coastal waters off a Seven Mile Beach property where it is proposing to build a five-star hotel.
Dart has switched the site of the long-planned hotel to a beachfront property close to the Tiki Beach restaurant. The hotel, which is expected to be a Four Seasons, was originally slated for the opposite end of the beach, next to Royal Palms.
Dart says it hopes to incorporate the new hotel and the neighboring Kimpton hotel in a luxury “sea to sea resort district” stretching from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club on the North Sound to Seven Mile Beach.
The long-term master plan for the area could also include canal-entry from the North Sound, under the highway, allowing visitors to both hotels to be taxied from the airport by boat. New restaurants and other amenities, including a kids resort, conference center and sports club, are also being discussed for the site.
The five-star hotel has a tentative opening date of 2020. But the development hinges on a coastal works application, filed by Dart on Thursday, seeking approval to begin removing beach rocks from the shallow waters off Seven Mile Beach.
Jackie Doak, chief operating officer at Dart, said the rocks need to be moved to create safer and easier access for swimmers. She said a deal with the hotel operator, which Dart has not named but several politicians, most recently tourism councillor Joey Hew, have indicated will be Four Seasons, is contingent on the rocks’ removal.
Environmental consultants hired by Dart have reviewed the site and suggested the rocks can be excavated with little impact on the environment.
The initial coastal works application is for a trial investigation to remove rock samples and test methodology for a full excavation of the partially submerged rocks. The developer will also investigate the possibility of crushing the rocks to be returned to the beach as sand.
Ms. Doak acknowledged there are small patches of coral in the area, but she said they are not significant. She said Dart has worked with consultants with in-depth knowledge of Cayman’s coastal environment, including geologist Brian Jones, and Richard Seymour, who worked on an earlier study of Seven Mile Beach.
She said both men had recommended that the rocks could be removed without impacting the dynamics of the beach and its ecosystem.
“Given our land holdings in the area, we are as sensitive as anyone to anything that could impact the environment or the dynamics of Seven Mile Beach,” Ms. Doak added.
She said the rocks made it difficult to swim or snorkel in the area, and improving access is important to the success of the project.
“It is not the experience you get in other parts of Seven Mile Beach,” she said.
The coastal works application is the first step in bringing Dart’s long-held plans for a five-star hotel to the Cayman Islands. Ms. Doak said the site was switched after discussions with the five-star operator that will manage the hotel.
She said the new location provides an opportunity for Dart to create a resort district.
“We did originally have the hotel at Camana Bay, but because of the multiplicity of options that this site gives us, we decided, with the operator, to go for this site.
“The really unique proposition that this provides to us as a developer is it gives us the opportunity to create an amazing resort district with much more amenities in addition to the two distinct hotel sites.”
The five-star property, which is in the conceptual phase, is estimated to have 175 rooms and 80 residences. Like the Kimpton hotel, it will be set well back from the beach and could include residences on both sides of the highway.
Subject to the Department of Environment’s review of all technical documentation and Cabinet’s approval, the beach-rock removal trial would be conducted in late April and the project would begin in November, to avoid turtle nesting season.