Dart Enterprises is planning to build a tower that would “greatly exceed” Cayman’s current 10-story height limit on buildings, Premier Alden McLaughlin said at Thursday’s Cayman Economic Outlook conference.
Mr. McLauglin said Dart would invest about $1.5 billion in the potential skyscraper and its surrounding infrastructure, which would include major road improvements and “potentially” social infrastructure investments in schools and affordable housing for Caymanians.
By way of comparison, the 160-story Burj Khalifa in Dubai cost about US$1.5 billion, and the 104-story One World Trade Center in New York cost about US$3.9 billion. The $1.5 billion would also be added to the roughly US$1.3 billion Dart spent on Camana Bay through 2017, according to the company.
The tower would be mixed-use, with hotel, residential, retail and entertainment spaces.
Neither Mr. McLaughlin nor Dart officials stated exactly how tall the tower will be, where it will be located, or what it will look like. Mr. McLaughlin said he would “leave it to Dart to outline their plan in more detail,” and a Dart spokesperson said a rendering of the structure has not been drawn, and that it’s “too early in the process” to provide any of those details.
Mr. McLaughlin stressed that the plan is still in its infancy. Government and Dart officials are discussing the proposal, and no commitments have been made, he said.
The premier said he was using this announcement as a way to “kick-start” the debate over the future of Cayman’s development.
“I pose this as a series of questions the nation should consider: Do we want to continue with the approach of incremental change, or is now the time for us to think bigger and act more boldly when it comes to our land use and building heights?” he said, adding, “I believe we must at least take a long, hard look at the potential for the kind of tower Dart is proposing.”
Mr. McLaughlin extolled the many benefits a giant tower could bring.
The development would create hundreds of jobs and would be an ongoing project that would serve as an economic buffer for when the inevitable next recession hits, he said. Instead of the growing “wall of concrete and glass” along Seven Mile Beach, towers would allow for the conservation of more land, the premier stated. Dart made similar economic and conservation arguments in a statement released shortly after Mr. McLaughlin’s speech.
“Additionally, the inclusion of a luxury hotel and residences will provide ongoing employment and will be an economic engine for the government for decades. In 2018, two of our hotels, The Ritz-Carlton and Kimpton Seafire, contributed more than $14 million directly to government revenues.” Mark VanDevelde, CEO of Dart Enterprises, stated in the release, with the company adding, “With limited land available on Seven Mile Beach, the ability to build upwards will provide new opportunities for developers, with an essential component being increased setbacks from the beach, as exemplified by Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.”
Citing the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the premier also stated that the tower of Dart could create “a new skyline that would be recognizable throughout the world.”
In fact, when the Eiffel Tower was being built in the late 1800s, some 300 contemporary French artists signed a petition to halt its development, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“Yes, petitions against progress were a thing, even then,” he said. “I can just imagine those in Cayman who will make similar objections.”
The premier’s announcement comes on the heels of House Speaker McKeeva Bush calling for 50-story buildings here in his New Year’s message.
“I want to see buildings’ heights move to 50 storeys, even if only for one building, for tourism, residential and commercial businesses to make a mark in the region, so that the wealthiest among the wealthy will work, shop and live there, to set us apart in the region,” Mr. Bush wrote. “We must offer something different. We are limited in space except for in the air. Why not go as high as we can go and we will be saving land.”