A decade of Camana Bay has wrought major changes in the Cayman Islands, and the pace is unlikely to slow in the next 10 years.
Dart Real Estate’s most visible enterprise, the increasingly sprawling, residential, commercial and recreational “new urbanism” community of Camana Bay, celebrates its 10th birthday this year.
Groundbreaking occurred in April 2005 and the first business opened there in December 2007.
Thursday afternoon’s “birthday bash” at the crescent was a festive reminder of how far the billion-dollar community has come. In 1995, Dart Enterprises founder Ken Dart purchased Seven Mile Beach’s Coral Caymanian Hotel and 236 adjacent acres, the foundation of a vision for an intimate, pedestrian-linked community mixing quiet residential apartments, select retail and service outlets, offices and recreational facilities.
Planning for that vision of a 65-acre project, dubbed “Camana Bay,” stretching from North Sound to Seven Mile Beach, began in 1996.
In April 2004, Mr. Dart converted the old West Indian Club, adjacent to the Royal Palms, into his personal residence, followed in May 2005 by groundbreaking for the first commercial buildings – on a site comprising rubble and mud. In November 2007, the first office building, 62 Forum Lane, opened with Ernst & Young, Cayman National Bank and financial house London & Amsterdam as anchor tenants. The following month, the Paseo took shape as Books & Books and the cinema were the first businesses to open.
In an interview published in the November issue of Dart’s Camana Bay Times newspaper, Dart Enterprises CEO Mark VanDevelde said, “the demand for Class-A office space” had been a “significant surprise” to the developers. More than half of 62 Forum Lane had been leased while the building was still under design, he said, “and that gave us an indication that there was strong demand out there” for top-tier office accommodation.
The uptake reflected a years-long lack of investment in George Town’s central business district; Mr. VanDevelde jumped at the opportunity.
Quickly, Dart built its head offices – and Ogier’s and CITGO’s – at 89 Nexus Way, followed by 94 Solaris Avenue, headquarters for Mourant Ozannes and Aon. Next was 18 Forum Lane with PricewaterhouseCoopers in residence, and today builders are putting the finishing touches on its 86,000-square-foot One Nexus Way neighbor.
Two more commercial and residential buildings are in design for ”block 7,” as part of the new Dart headquarters scheduled for a late-2021 opening.
Initially, residential construction lagged, but as global economies picked up after 2009, demand recovered, resulting in 63 furnished apartments for lease at The Terraces.
In the Camana Bay Times, Mr. VanDevelde promised renewed focus on residential development in the next 20 years, beginning with creation of more than 200 for-sale condominiums and town houses on more than 500 acres from North Sound to Seven Mile Beach.
A residential tower, 10 North, between seven stories and 10 stories, will rise north of 94 Solaris Ave., with two-bed and three-bed condominiums for sale, while a site dubbed “The Big Box” will combine office and residential facilities to the south.
The Big Box will abut a 60,000-square-foot Foster’s supermarket and a home-goods store, surrounded by smaller retail businesses topped by 60 studio and one-bed apartments, known as Market Street Flats.
“The Cube,” near block 7, will offer for-lease apartments – studios through two-bedrooms – and the for-lease “Liner” will add as many as 150 residences to the Camana Bay portfolio in the next four years.
Long term, Dart is thinking about “Central Island,” in “The Harbour,” for development, and creating another four, small, linked islands with three-story and four-story townhouse apartments.
The company has spent nearly US$1 billion on Camana Bay’s Town Centre and its 700,000 square feet of office, residential, retail and other commercial space. In the next decade, Dart will spend another US$1.3 billion on developments that will include a new five-star hotel and road infrastructure, already apparent in the rebuilt Esterley Tibbetts Highway – and its new airport connector road – and an underpass near the Galleria shopping center. Ultimately, the underpass will help support an ambitious elevated platform reaching to Seven Mile Beach, enabling further Camana Bay expansion.
Already, the group has built the Cayman International School and a series of playing fields, including tennis and basketball courts, and the adjacent Arts and Recreation Centre.
The community now boasts 130 residents, 40 retail outlets, 15 restaurants and 45 offices, employing more than 1,700 people, according to the Camana Bay Times.
Addressing Wednesday’s Town Centre birthday party, Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate, thanked Ken Dart “for his vision and desire to invest in a town where life blossoms and businesses thrive – enhancing the quality of life and experiences,” and both Dart Enterprises Managing Director Jim Lammers and Mr. VanDevelde “for starting and leading us on this journey of developing and nurturing Camana Bay.”
She added, “We are grateful to live in a country where, over our years of development, we have strong, stable governments which support sustainable economic growth and development.
“So today, as Camana Bay turns 10, let’s raise a glass to continuing the Camana Bay journey, a town where life blossoms and businesses thrive, enhancing the quality of life for generations to come.”
Timeline of Camana Bay development
- 1995: Ken Dart buys the Seven Mile Beach-front Coral Caymanian Hotel and 236 adjacent acres, Camana Bay’s foundation.
- 1996: Dart Realty creates a 26-acre nursery, cultivating 600 species of native plants to landscape the Town Centre.
- 1996-2005: Planning, architecture and design studies, building applications, environmental assessments and coastal engineering lay the groundwork for Camana Bay development.
- 2005: May groundbreaking launches Town Centre development as construction starts on Cayman International School.
- 2006: Cayman International School opens.
- 2007: The first Town Centre office building, 62 Forum Lane, opens in November, followed in December by the first retail operations, the cinema and Books & Books.
- 2008: A series of public planning meetings start in April, gauging opinion on development priorities.
- 2010: Camana Bay wins the first “Governor’s Award” for sustainable, innovative design and construction.
- 2016: Cayman’s first building to gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification, 18 Forum Lane, opens.
- 2017: As part of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway rebuild, Dart opens Cayman’s first underpass, which will support an overhead Town Centre-West Bay Road platform, enabling Camana Bay expansion.
CLARIFICATION: The print version of this story that ran in the Friday, Nov. 10, issue of the Cayman Compass failed to identify that Dart Enterprise CEO Mark VanDevelde’s quotes initially appeared in the November 2017 edition of the Camana Bay Times, a monthly newspaper published by the Dart Group. The Compass had obtained permission beforehand to use the Times as source material, but did not include the appropriate attribution information in Friday’s story. The online version of this story has been corrected accordingly.