Taller buildings in high-density areas, an extended network of footpaths and cycle trails and greater flexibility for ‘mixed-use’ development are all on the wish list of the Dart group for the future of the Seven Mile Beach corridor.
As the major landowner, Dart will undoubtedly have more influence than most on shaping how the area develops in the coming decades.
Plans for Hotel Indigo, a new 10-storey resort close to Public Beach, have already been approved.
And Dart has submitted an application to create a sprawling mixed-use community on its land between the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and Seven Mile Beach.
The developer is also in the midst of the ongoing build-out of Camana Bay, including new residences and office buildings that are under construction.
A renovation of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman hotel is scheduled for later this year.
Beyond its own land holdings, Dart is also partnering with government to cap and remediate the George Town landfill.
“Dart remains committed to the Cayman Islands as our global headquarters and our home,” CEO Mark VanDevelde said.
“As a jurisdiction, Cayman is well-placed to meet the demands of visitors seeking a safe and sophisticated place to live, work, vacation and invest in a post-COVID world.
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“Our development focus is on making sure we are well-placed to capture that demand, moving forward.”
Dart maintains that well-planned, sustainable development, can create jobs and economic prosperity for Cayman while also considering environmental factors.
The company has welcomed government’s Plan Cayman project and indicated it will be participating in the consultation sessions over the future of the Seven Mile corridor.
VanDevelde added, “The balance between economic, social and environmental interests in a small country where space is limited is not easy to achieve, but Dart shares the community’s desire to ensure we are meeting the needs of today and future generations.
“A national development plan is an important step on the path towards sustainability.”
Though plans for an ‘iconic tower’, first mooted in 2019, are not on the immediate agenda, Dart still harbours hopes that the new development plan will incorporate scope for buildings that go beyond the current 10-storey maximum.
The company believes this will allow for new developments to be set further back from the ocean, while remaining economically viable.
In an emailed response to questions from the Compass, Dart argues that there are numerous economic, social and environmental benefits to “building up rather than out”.
It suggests this approach reduces sprawl and increases walkability, highlighting the beach-front path that runs alongside the Kimpton Seafire Resort as one example of this philosophy in action.
In terms of how high Cayman should go, Dart stated, “We welcome a public conversation on whether we want to be bold and daring in our approach to increasing building heights, or whether it will take place in increments over years.”
Paths and cycleways
In its latest Planned Area Development application, Dart outlined hopes to link its North Sound properties with Seven Mile Beach through an extended network of paths and cycle ways.
Increasing the ability of residents and visitors to walk and bike around Cayman generally is something Dart would like to see incorporated in the new development plan.
“We would like to see an extension of the network of paths and trails for pedestrians and cyclists to move around Cayman safely and comfortably, reducing the reliance on cars and encouraging well-being and healthy lifestyles,” it states.
There has been public concern about the potential for Dart’s developments to limit public access to the beach.
But the developer insists it “respects the need for meaningful beach access for all Cayman residents” and will provide clear rights of way, as required.
Barkers National Park
Dart insists its design philosophy is centred around sustainable development that incorporates open spaces and creates opportunities for interaction with nature.
It aims to be a “responsible steward” of lands and points out that it holds thousands of acres globally and locally which are not intended for development.
“We remain open to discussions with government to create a national park at Barkers, combining opportunities for environmental preservation with ecotourism and public recreational opportunities,” the company stated.
Dart argues that ‘sustainable development’ is another pillar of the Cayman economy that can provide substantial economic benefits.
“The two new buildings at Camana Bay alone will inject $130 million into the economy, creating 350 jobs in the construction industry during a time of economic uncertainty,” the company said.
Hotel Indigo will bring another 300 jobs during construction and 300 more hospitality jobs once it opens.
Alongside those projects comes increased opportunity, Dart says, for Caymanian water-sports operators, transport, and tourism support services.
Dart adds that partnerships with businesses like NCB at Olea, or with Health City Cayman Islands for the new medical campus at Camana Bay, increase local career opportunities.
“Dart has a 28-year history in the Cayman Islands, with a long track record of thoughtful development, support of the local community and partnership with private and public sector to create opportunities for shared prosperity,” the company said.
- This story is part of our ‘Seven on Seven’ feature series this week looking at the future of development in Cayman, and in the Seven Mile Beach corridor in particular, from multiple perspectives.