Even if you haven’t heard of Davenport Development, odds are good you’ll be familiar with its many successful projects.
Lantern Point, San Sebastian and VELA are just a few of the company’s condo developments, with the latter two adding extra phases, thanks to available real estate. That was a mercy, as demand has been high.
What has really made Davenport the success it is, however, is the friendship behind the business. Two men from different parts of the world with no previous experience in the trade learned the industry as they grew, with each bringing different skills to the table.
Paul Pearson was born in Ireland, while Ken Thompson is a son of the Cayman soil, as they say. The only thing they really had in common was their backgrounds in the restaurant world and their gregarious personalities with a fondness for telling stories.
Ken’s family was known for Island Taste Restaurant and its famous patties. Paul came to Cayman to work as the general manager of the local Hard Rock Café, which was built on the original Island Taste site and owned by Ken.
“We also had our own line of shops touting Cuban souvenirs and artwork to cruise ship passengers (A Little Piece of Havana), so we were very close and trusted each other implicitly,” Paul explains.
The two became as thick as thieves, so it just made sense for them to start a new venture together. In June 2006, Davenport Development officially opened its doors.
“After Hurricane Ivan [in 2004], we recognised the shortage and the need for good quality condos and homes in Cayman,” Ken says. “When Paul mentioned it to me, I said, ‘I know just the place.”
The property was on Crewe Road where Ken had lived as a child and was up for sale. This would subsequently become the location for the company’s first project – Valencia Heights.
The two freely admit that they started with little-to-no experience under their belts.
“Ken had supervised the renovation of the Hard Rock and ‘built’ his mother’s house on Walker’s Road with George Jackson,” Paul says.
“Paul had no experience of anything in construction and development,” Ken adds. “But he had management experience and knew how to manage people.”
When it came to Valencia Heights, Paul had to persuade Ken to ‘build small and charge little’.
“Caymanians are used to huge master ‘suites’, big rooms and small windows,” Ken says. “We flipped that on its head entirely. We built 33 units, two-bed/two-bath and three-bed/2.5-bath. They are all approx. 1,000-square-feet and we went to market at a starting price of $187,000.
“The complex was sold out by the time we were finished, and people were moving in.”
Concept and vision
When it comes to the design concepts, Ken bows to Paul’s vision.
“It comes from his head, and we then meet with the architects many, many times until we get it correct,” Ken says. “Lantern Point is the exact same in size as Valencia Heights. The concept here was to fit it into the Old Prospect Road European style of housing. We added barrel tiles to the roof, round windows and arches.”
San Sebastian, Davenport’s third development, was inspired by Paul’s parents’ holiday home in Southern Spain.
A gated complex with a huge, Santorini-blue tiled swimming pool running down the middle, San Sebastian’s condos have appreciated in value significantly since they were first built and are much sought-after residences.
With three Spanish- and Mediterranean-style designs now completed, it was time to look at mixing things up a bit. Enter VELA, the modern collection of luxury condos on the South
“VELA is the same as San Sebastian on the inside, but we wanted to give it a much more contemporary look, as we agreed this is how the market was progressing,” Paul says. “We also wanted the pool to fit that theme.”
One only has to look at Davenport’s many sites to see that pools are a big consideration when it comes to finished product.
“All our developments are built around the pool, making it the central feature of the property,” Ken says. “We realised that people who could not have ocean views want at least a fantastic pool view.
“By the time we had gotten to San Sebastian, our biggest project to that date, we had investigated a company that had built huge pools in Roatan and hired them to build our pool there. They ended up completing the three pools for the different phases.”
When it came to the construction of VELA, however, it was local businessman Frank Flowers who challenged them to build an Olympic-length pool.
The result was a long body of water with a two-lane Olympic training element, as well as family/kids and play areas. The pools in phases II and III have a three-lane
Paul and Ken are already moving ahead with the next project – ARVIA – which sits on the Grand Harbour canal, followed by BAHIA in South Sound. The latter already has over 70% of its units reserved.
“The ARVIA site was one that we had been watching over the years,” Paul says. “We decided to purchase the land, extend the Grand Harbour canal into the land and design and build condos around the canal. Keeping with the pool being on the ‘inside’ of our developments, the pool lies at the end of the canal with the condos designed around it.”
When the duo is scouting for sites, the main consideration is location.
“The land must be close to town, be the requisite size, and have room for our famous facilities,” Paul says. “We love South Sound and had decided long ago that Lantern Point would be the furthest ‘out from town’ until the government alleviates the eastbound traffic issues.”
The company has also made great investments – giving back to Cayman’s community and sharing the wealth of its success.
“One of our biggest efforts so far was when we pulled our team and our suppliers together – in particular Flowers Block/Flowers Foam and Cox Lumber – to donate the Performance Arts Centre to George Town Primary,” Paul says. “We also support Meals On Wheels, the Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Cayman AIDS Foundation, to name a few.”
Although there have been hurdles along the way, there have also been many positives.
“Seeing a development finished and images that started as dreams in my head becoming a reality is amazing,” says Paul.
“Landscaping and growing things are my passion,” Ken adds. “I love going back to a development a year after it has finished and seeing the landscape blooming.
“We particularly love seeing first-time buyers, whether local or ex-pats, move into their first home. Some we have had to help in the early days with financial issues/deposits/loans and everyone we helped has come through and repaid every penny that they may have owed.”
It doesn’t seem that Davenport has any notions of slowing down. When asked if they have had any regrets about getting into this line of work, Paul says. “Apart from 15 years of sleepless nights? No.”
Originally published in InsideOut magazine, Issue 38, Fall Winter 2020.