The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman developer Michael Ryan is back in the development business in Cayman, this time teaming up with realtor/developer Dale Crighton to build a luxury oceanfront development on South Church Street.
The development, which will feature 36 oceanfront units on a property that is 400 feet wide and 280 feet deep, will be called FIN, the French word for “end” because it is meant to indicate Cayman’s “final word in luxury.”
The site, which was mostly cleared with the exception of a house that will become the site office for the development during construction, is in between the Seaview and Kisha developments.
FIN’s amenities will include private elevator access to the units, a 75-foot elevated glass-bottom pool that cantilevers out over the beach, a saltwater lagoon with access to the sea, underground parking, 24-hour concierge service, an owners’ lounge, a business center, a tennis court, private plunge pools and wine lockers. There will be also be a car service with two electric cars for owners to use.
“That’s part of the environmental approach we’re taking,” said Mr. Ryan, adding that FIN has also formed a partnership with artist/conservationist Guy Harvey to support his marine research and preservation efforts by building into the strata fees a 1 percent donation in perpetuity.
Mr. Ryan said the project has been years in the making, mainly because he and Mr. Crighton needed the right site for the development.
“After searching for many years, Dale and I found a site where we could do for residential what my Ritz-Carlton project did for hospitality.”
He said he and Mr. Crighton make a good partnership for the project and that they both contributed on the conceptualization of the project.
“We’ve been friends and business partners going on 20 years,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anyone on the island that I respect more in terms of his integrity and abilities.”
FIN will offer a higher standard in residential condominium living, Mr. Crighton said.
“We wanted to focus on the local market, bring them something they had never seen before and create a product that was better than what was available on Seven Mile Beach, but be affordable,” he said, noting that pre-release prices will start around $1 million, average around $1.7 million, and will increase through the pre-sale process.
The development will employ a team of top international architects, interior designers and boutique hotel managers, Mr. Ryan said.
Unlike many of the Seven Mile Beach condominium units, which tend to be tubular – long and narrow – in shape, FIN’s two-, three- and four-bedroom oceanfront units will all be more than 30 feet wide, with some up to 41 feet wide.
The exterior of the development is “art deco streamliner design,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that art deco has roots in the Caribbean.
He stressed that this is a modern take on art deco.
“We didn’t want to create a museum piece or a Hollywood set where people are walking around with long cigarette holders and women are wearing flapper dresses,” he said. “What we wanted is a 21st century take on art deco.”
Because the development is primarily geared toward residents, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Crighton invited select “community leaders” to a presentation on FIN in March and asked for input on the proposed project. Based on their input, the site layout was changed to allow for more parking spaces, private garages and storage lockers.
“Our approach was to take our time and get it right,” Mr. Ryan said, noting that developers often realize after the fact that they should have done certain things differently. “We wanted to get input from the people who are going to be our target market. That’s how you create long-term value.”
Mr. Ryan said his experience building The Ritz-Carlton taught him a lot about the kinds of luxury amenities people really want, and the ones they really do not care about.
“What we’ll have is a better product than Seven Mile Beach at half the price,” he said. “We’ll have the amenities people want without them having to pay more in strata fees.”
Mr. Ryan battled through years of adversity, including Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, to open the five-star Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman in December 2005. The 375-room hotel, which has been named the No. 1 best hotel in the Caribbean multiple times by U.S. News & World Report, set a new standard in luxury hospitality properties in Cayman, offering amenities such as a La Prairie-branded spa, a Greg Norman-designed golf course and five restaurants, including Blue by Eric Ripert, the New York celebrity chef.
Plans to develop a wider development known as Dragon Bay as a continuation of The Ritz-Carlton project collapsed in March 2012 when Mr. Ryan’s company defaulted on a loan owed to Five Mile Capital Partners, which eventually bought the property at auction.
Despite the unpleasant end of his involvement in The Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Ryan, who obtained Caymanian status in 2003, said he always thought he would do another project in Cayman.
“I believe in Cayman and I always will believe in Cayman,” he said. “I still think we’re at the early edge of what’s possible for this island and I wanted to be a part of what’s possible. The challenge was to find a site that would really work, and now we’ve done that.”
He said he and Mr. Crighton are both Caymanian and have a proven track record in delivering the projects they promise.
“We know what it takes to build one of these,” he said, adding that potential buyers can take comfort in knowing that what they are being promised on a pre-sale basis will be delivered, and they will not have to worry that five years from now the developers will be gone.
Mr. Ryan said a development team of about 12 people is already amassed in Cayman, and that the number is going to increase as sales and construction proceed.
The FIN units are not yet officially for sale, but some of the units are already “reserved.”
Detailed information about FIN can be obtained only by appointment or on www.fingrandcayman.com.