Wild tamarind trees smother the weathered shells of rusting construction equipment lining the dirt road that runs from the quarry to Scott’s dock on Cayman Brac.
Standing on a small hill, overlooking the water, Frank Schilling outlines some of his ideas for the future of the site.
“What you are standing in, whether you know it or not, is a small village that will eventually cascade down this rambling hill towards the water in the distance,” he says.
“In the future we will have a small inlet and marina and the ability to bring in fishing boats.”
Schilling paints a picture of an old-fashioned Mediterranean-style village and harbour that he says will bring amenities and investment in a way that fits with the slower pace of the Sister Islands.
The entrepreneur, who made his fortune as the founder of Uniregistry – a registrar for internet domain names – has branched out into development since selling the business in early 2020.
Schilling has acquired some 300 acres on Cayman Brac, including 80 acres surrounding the airport. In a relatively short period of time he has become one of the biggest landowners on the Sister Islands.
He aims to slowly develop a village, port and private air-services business over the next two decades.
His dream is still some way from reality. Planning applications to the Development Control Board and a Coastal Works Application to Cabinet will be required before any work can begin.
The most ambitious, and potentially controversial aspect of the project, is a plan to excavate six acres of land next to Scott’s dock to create an inland safe harbour that could accommodate around 20 fishing or pleasure boats.
Situated on the northwest coast, Schilling argues it will have minimal impact on the fringing reefs and will create a new amenity for the Sister Islands that can provide security for a local fleet of boats and access to cargo ships and possibly even a car-ferry from Grand Cayman.
With just 1,500 people currently living on the Brac, Schilling believes the margins for any development are small.
He claims he is investing out of a love for the island and to fill what he sees as a needed niche rather than in expectation of significant profits.
He says he wants to include the community in the conversation about how the land is developed. An email has been set up for feedback and questions at [email protected]
“In an island of 1,500 people you can’t impose your vision – everything will happen at the natural pace and progress that is good for the community,” he said.
Schilling believes his Port Zeus marina project will be welcomed by the community.
“There is no viable port or safe harbour currently on the Brac,” he said, highlighting the potential to bring in fresh seafood and other supplies through a thriving port.
“It is a modest harbour in keeping with the island. We are not talking about a sea port here, it is a fishing village.”
Schilling returns to the Mediterranean theme as he describes his hopes for the ‘village’ – a town square, a taverna and shops with apartments on the upper floor. He insists the aim is to be low key, with a development of a few hundred homes springing up in phases over several decades.
“I love the Brac. I have been coming here with my son for over a decade,” he said.
“It feels soulful and good and under-appreciated and we would like to try to enhance it at a pace that the community will accept.”
He said the land side of his proposed project is on an industrial site – largely used to dispose of junked construction equipment.
The first element of a multi-stage plan to fall into place will be his ‘Brac and Forth’ air-services business.
Schilling acquired the site where Daggaro had planned to station an aviation company specialising in search and rescue. He aims to submit new plans for a hangar, cold storage facility for food and a retail space on that property.
Schilling believes that will help provide a level of infrastructure, including a fresh food supply, that the Brac has not had previously.
The second stage, he said, would be to seek permission for the marina project. The village will be the third part of the plan to fall into place, though approvals could be sought simultaneously.
He believes there is some room for the Brac to grow and boost services that will add to the economy and to the population without it becoming a new Grand Cayman.
“Everything we are doing is long term and modest in scale,” he said.
“I am trying to stake this out with a village, a town square, shops, homes, a restaurant, and a protected harbour and we will see what springs from there.”