The Year Ahead: Taller Buildings on the Horizon
With construction activity continuing unabated, several new projects that will extend the development boom into 2020 and beyond have either been floated, approved or already launched.
At the start of 2019, Dart suggested the idea of an “iconic tower”, a five-star skyscraper resort with residences that would become instantly recognisable all over the world.
When Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the proposal at the Cayman Economic Outlook conference in February, he stated that Dart would invest about $1.5 billion in the building and related infrastructure.
In June, Justin Howe, executive vice president of Real Estate Development and Operations for Decco, said Dart’s development company was in the process of turning the idea into a plan, by considering scale, location, mixed-use components, market demand, infrastructure, setbacks – the distance from a lot boundary to a development – and the legal requirements.
However, despite the promise of its economic contribution, the idea of an iconic tower was not universally welcomed. Chamber of Commerce President Chris Kirkconnell said the overwhelming consensus of the business group was that Cayman did not need to become a “high-rise jungle” and that the proposal was “neither needed nor wanted” by the wider community.
Much of the desire to build taller buildings stems from the scarcity and high cost of available land in the most desirable areas, particularly Seven Mile Beach.
Current planning regulations restrict building heights in Cayman to a maximum of 10 storeys.
An architect’s impression shows how the proposed 10-storey Lacovia development will look.
The new economics were laid bare in January when owners at Lacovia, one of Seven Mile Beach’s oldest condominium developments, voted to demolish their homes and replace them with three new, 10-storey buildings.
Each of Lacovia’s 55 owners has been guaranteed an apartment in the new complex, which will feature a mix of multi-million dollar homes, including $20 million top-floor penthouse suites.
The developer, Bronte Development, expects to make sufficient money from the sale of the 33 remaining apartments in the 88-apartment complex to fund the construction costs, as well as its developer’s fee.
Bronte believes the partnership with the executive committee of the strata corporation, a first for Cayman, could be the formula for the future development of Seven Mile Beach.
With vacant beachfront land in short supply, developers could work with stratas to redevelop older properties rather than seeking to buy them out or break new ground at less optimal sites.
The trend towards high-rise buildings is also visible in the latest Seven Mile Beach hotel projects.
Construction has begun on both the 10-storey, 351-room Grand Hyatt Hotel and Residences located at Pageant Beach between The Wharf Restaurant and Poinsettia condos, as well as Kailani Grand Cayman. The latter is a seven-storey hotel, 80-room hotel located at the site of the old Treehouse Restaurant, opposite Kirk Market.
The first Curio Collection by Hilton property in Cayman is slated to open in late 2021.
Tall hotel buildings will not be confined to the Seven Mile Beach area, after plans for the Mandarin Oriental resort in the Beach Bay area of Bodden Town were approved in November.
Work on the two, nine-storey buildings of the Mandarin Oriental, which will comprise the resort and residences, is scheduled to begin next year, with a 2022 opening date set for the hotel.
Meanwhile, a totally different hotel concept is set for Barefoot Beach in East End, where NCB Group is planning to build 83 single-storey units as part of a low-impact eco resort over 10 acres of land off the Queen’s Highway. The developers are leasing the land from Dart for a maximum of 10 years.
To accommodate the tourism growth anticipated by the hotel developments, infrastructure investments are also taking shape.
In March, the redeveloped Owen Roberts International Airport was officially opened by Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. The air terminal has undergone a massive redevelopment over the past three years to be able to handle 2.7 million passengers per year.
Not long after opening, the management of the airport said a further expansion with a new terminal would be needed in the next five to ten years, at a likely cost of $100 million.
Expansion is not only needed for the terminal building, but also the runway and taxiing
In October, a $30 million upgrade of the airfield was approved. The project aims to add 870 feet to the west end of the existing runway and construct an apron north of the end of the runway to enlarge the turn-around area for aircraft.
It would also allow for one plane to be waiting while another is taking off or landing, which cuts the average time between taking off and landing in half.