EDITORIAL – Mandarin Oriental: Don’t stop the economic carnival

The Caribbean summer may be hot, but Grand Cayman’s development scene is even more blistering, with projects under way from the northern tip of Seven Mile Beach all the way to East End, and around to Rum Point.

The most recent news, of course, is Thursday’s front-page announcement that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has signed on to manage the long-awaited luxury resort and residences at Beach Bay.

The resort, the project of New York-based Melkonian Capital Management, will be Cayman’s first five-star hotel that is not located on Seven Mile Beach. It will include 100 rooms, 89 residences, five restaurants and bars, and its own farm for growing farm-to-table fare. It is an exciting project that will improve an area ripe for development and will help bring more visitors (and more visitors’ spending) to the eastern districts upon its anticipated opening in 2021.

The Beach Bay project adds to a growing list of expansions and new developments springing up in every district, from the Rum Point Club Residences in North Side to the Boggy Sands Club in West Bay, not to mention FIN’s luxury condominiums on South Church Street and Periwinkle’s sustainable, community-centric housing at Grand Harbour.

(And, of course, do not forget about the prestigious Residences of Stone Island near the Yacht Club, the planned Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman and the NCB Group’s boutique hotel at the old Treehouse restaurant site in George Town.)

Lately, it seems the biggest impediment to Cayman’s ongoing development is government’s penchant for “fixing” things that aren’t broken.

Not unlike a mechanic who just cannot help tinkering with a smoothly purring engine, some in the public sector can’t seem to curb their enthusiasm for suffocating private sector success with red tape-dispensing committees and tortuous (and torturous) application and approval processes.

For example, consider the National Conservation Council’s insertion of itself into the Dart Group’s plans for a parcel of land on Seven Mile Beach. First, requirements for an environmental impact assessment – because of concerns about the removal of beach rock – stymied Dart’s intentions to build a large luxury hotel (understood to be a Four Seasons) on the property.

Now, after Dart changed tack and earmarked the land for the creation of a site for next year’s KAABOO festival – which is estimated to generate nearly $14 million in revenue and attract 11,000 people per day – the council submitted more “environmental advice” to be considered by the Central Planning Authority when weighing Dart’s application.

The planning board, however, did not consider the conservation council’s advice, and went ahead and approved Dart’s plan.

That irked environmental officials, including Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie, who questioned the legality of the CPA’s behavior. But, thankfully, instead of trying to roll back the CPA’s decision, the council instead opted to send a strongly worded letter to planning officials to listen to them in the future.

Well, here’s the thing about the future: Nobody knows what’s coming. Right now, Cayman’s economy remains strong, as does that of our behemoth neighbor to the north, the United States.

The good times have been rolling for a number of years now, and while we cannot know when the current boom will end – it is certain that it will end, or at least, slow down. It is equally certain that, when a dip does occur, it will catch almost everyone off guard.

Cayman has a cyclical economy, heavily dependent on foreign investment and international currents. Fueled by a global economy (that faces any number of challenges, from “trade wars,” to Brexit, to European Union woes, to China’s growing influence, etc.), the local development spree will not continue forever unabated.

Instead of conceiving novel ways to impede new construction, Cayman should be seizing the opportunities that are present, here in the present.

Targeted density and calculated growth are oxygen for Cayman’s economy.

It is imperative to cultivate and nurture new developments during fiscal summers, so that when “winter” comes, the projects are stable and mature enough to continue to prosper, bloom and bear economic fruit.

1 COMMENT

  1. I remember some years ago in a meeting in the civic center in Bodden Town, Gina said they would not be controlling Develpoment or Planning. She said that it would be just advising. She was very adamant about it. It seems the gloves are off now. Back then the group was about conserving the Central Mangrove. I own land in the Central Mangrove and I said in the meeting then and before, buy it and you can do whatever they want to do with it. Its been for sale quite for so time. But I have never gotten a phone call, email, nothing. They think they should, “bleed you first”. The longer they wait the higher the price.