It takes either a fool or a seer (let the reader decide) to attempt to brand something as grand as an era – be it geologic, cultural, or economic.
Nevertheless, demarcations in timelines can be instructive in that they give us a sense of ourselves and our destiny.
With some humility, then (please, no trumpets, no drum rolls), our nomination for Cayman’s next era of growth is:
‘The Golden Age’
It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Nice associations, too: 18 carat or better.
For perspective, significant events on Cayman’s timeline were fairly few following the discovery of these islands by Christopher Columbus more than five centuries ago. Indeed, a self-ascribed slogan, uttered proudly, described Cayman as “the islands time forgot.”
It was not until the 1960s that Cayman’s modern era truly began. A Guyana-born and Cambridge-educated attorney, William S. Walker, arrived on these shores and, along with a few visionary Caymanians, planted the seeds for what was to grow into a financial colossus.
In addition to foresight, these pioneers were aided by technology (telephones and fax machines), reliable utilities (“clean” electricity, potable water), and the expansion of infrastructure, most notably Owen Roberts International Airport, the gateway through which commerce, tourism, and ideas would flow.
If it is true that economic cycles go in ebbs and flows, much like our seas, it is also true that since the global economic downturn in 2008, Cayman has been doing more “ebbing” than “flowing,” but that is about to change.
In an almost staccato-like series of recent presentations, investors and developers (from both on and off the island), have been announcing their plans – big plans – that collectively will transform the urbanscape of Grand Cayman and the lifestyle of those who live here.
The news that deservedly garnered the most attention not surprisingly came from the Dart organization which announced it is prepared to invest an additional $1.3 billion over the next 10 to 15 years to expand dramatically its Camana Bay development, reroute and elevate roads, and build, among other things, a five-star hotel to complement its Kimpton resort property well on its way to completion.
It was a compelling statement of confidence in the future of the Cayman Islands.
Another expression of confidence comes from Fraser Wellon, who for many years has been building high-end condominium complexes on Seven Mile Beach. Soon after the grand opening of the WaterColours, Wellon was already at work on his next project, a $100 million community on “Stone Island,” near Vista del Mar and the Yacht Club.
Meanwhile, local developer Lewis Ebanks is planning to add another $200 million or so to construction industry coffers with his Gran Palazzo, featuring 123 luxury condos and town houses fronting on the North Sound. Ebanks is making a big bet that multimillionaire home-seekers can be lured away from the sands of Seven Mile Beach to less-crowded, but still beautiful, locales.
Perhaps the time finally is right.
Even our eastern districts are showing serious signs of life. The Arnold Palmer golf course community, called Ironwood, apparently has the blessing of government and is on track to attract approximately $300 million in investment.
Not far away, Health City Cayman Islands is marking its first anniversary and is about to move on to its second phase of development, which will include a hotel, an educational facility and an assisted-care residential community.
A major new hotel is planned for Beach Bay – it could transform Bodden Town – and, of course, Morritt’s and the Reef Resort are always expanding.
If government can make good on its plans and promises, a new cruise ship port, a revitalized downtown, and, most importantly, a new international airport are on their way.
This is a good thing. Economies, like minds, stagnate and eventually deteriorate if they do not seek out the new, abandon the comfortable, and embrace the notion that on the other side of risk and uncertainty lie success and prosperity.
Cayman developer and real estate mogul Bobby Bodden, who knows a thing or two about business – and risk – puts it this way: “A ship is always safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships are built for.”
The HMS Good Ship Cayman is about to sail into new waters – and a new Golden Age. Our clarion call to all: “Welcome aboard.”