In airline terminology, the Cayman Islands are upgrading to elegant and luxurious first-class.
With innovative developments and enhancements in the wings, the island – long hailed as a world-class offshore jurisdiction and premier tourism destination – is moving from excellent to exceptional.
Within the last decade, Grand Cayman has enjoyed an accelerated period of expansion, renovation, and revitalization. Projects such as the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and The WaterColours luxury residences on Seven Mile Beach have transformed the landscape, along with modern infrastructure and, of course, the ever-expanding Crown jewel of the island, Camana Bay.
Today, the potential for short- and long-term growth and diversification is taking flight, with an optimistic outlook on several fronts. From major infrastructure improvements to new luxury resorts and residences to business upgrades, the Cayman Islands is experiencing what the Japanese call “Kaizen” – a philosophy of continuous improvement.
It’s a vital strategy for remaining competitive and fostering change for the better.
Optimism abounds when it comes to Cayman’s tourism industry.
Several new high-end resorts and developments are set to come on stream, beckoning new visitors to these shores as well as serving as a significant signpost of a healthy level of investor confidence.
Dart Realty has multiple developments under way, with its Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa nearing completion and ramping up for opening in November 2016.
It is Kimpton’s first project outside of North America. Upscale and contemporary, the 10-story boutique hotel and its multiple restaurants will appeal to both residents and visitors, and create some 300 jobs.
The resort’s lush walking paths and cycling lanes will link the hotel grounds to the Dart-owned Cayman Islands Yacht Club on the North Sound. Dart is planning another five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach, north of Kimpton Seafire, that will connect to the Yacht Club through the bike trail network.
On the other end of the Seven Mile Beach strip, developers are planning to transform the failed Treasure Island Resort into a Margaritaville Resort. The Howard Hotel Group bought the property late last year and, if all goes to plan, it will open in late 2016.
It is targeting a different market, offering a fun, party atmosphere that will be attractive to both residents and tourists.
Plans are gaining momentum for an eco-friendly five-star resort in the Beach Bay area in the Bodden Town district. The upscale resort will capitalize on the area’s secluded location and natural beauty, offering a decidedly different experience from the Seven Mile Beach corridor.
Health City Cayman Islands in East End is moving forward with a number of capital projects, including an on-site hotel for patients to stay before and after their procedures, and for their families.
The multi-specialty hospital intends to invest $25 million in infrastructure in 2016, and as much as $100 million in 2017 and 2018, all from private sources.
The investments will come from Health City and Health City Development, expanding hospital facilities and launching several commercial ventures, including the 185-room hotel, staff housing, a shopping plaza, and a medical school.
The expansion comes on the heels of Health City receiving its international accreditation last year from the Joint Commission International, paving the way for a growing medical tourism market.
JCI is the international arm of the Joint Commission, the largest and oldest healthcare accrediting body in the United States. The accreditation not only assures the quality of healthcare being delivered at Health City – needed to drive patient volumes – but also makes it easier for insurance companies to send patients to Cayman, particularly from the key U.S. market.
Several non-hospital projects are in the works for 2016. Health City Development plans to begin phase one of Parrot Ridge Apartments, a 59-unit complex designed for staff and patients. Phase two will include another 59 units.
In addition, developer Joseph Imparato of City Services has plans for major commercial development around Health City, including a pharmacy, supermarket, gas station, restaurant, and liquor store. Long-term plans include a hotel and residential development.
Also “out east,” the Ironwood development is moving forward with its resort development, with phase one featuring retirement homes aimed at affluent baby boomers. It will be built around an Arnold Palmer-designed PGA Championship golf course.
A beach club and town center with shops and restaurants are also part of the plan.
In the Sister Islands, the renamed Cayman Brac Beach Resort has undergone a major revamp, highlighted by a sprawling lagoon-style swimming pool at the water’s edge and a new two-story bar that includes an observation deck.
The 40-room hotel and dive resort is described as the backbone of the island’s tourism industry, with improved airlift into the Brac expected to boost visitor numbers.
Residential developments are booming on island, driving prices, bringing in new investors and boosting the local economy.
The desirable neighborhood of South Sound is experiencing unprecedented growth.
Among the projects is Vela I and Vela II, a gated community of luxury townhomes by Davenport Development. The first two phases, totaling 102 homes, have nearly sold out, while phase three of another 56 units is in the planning stage.
Tides, a luxurious 24-residence, 1.6-acre beachfront condominium development by NCB Group, is set to break ground in June, with an expected completion date of September 2017.
All six of Baraud Development’s Shore Club condos have sold, with the upscale development scheduled for a September opening.
Other luxury properties are on tap across the island. The Residences of Stone Island is being developed by the team behind The WaterColours.
This gated waterfront community is expected to break ground this year in the prestigious Yacht Club neighborhood. Stone Island consists of 44 three-story luxury residences, with numerous amenities such as private plunge pools, boardwalk, lush landscaping and expansive infinity edge pool.
In West Bay, the buzz is about Boggy Sands. The first phase of this luxury beachside development by Coen Coleman Ltd. is set to open in the charming area of Boggy Sand road in early 2016.
Located just steps away from a secluded stretch of Seven Mile Beach, the modern gated community will consist of 20 well-appointed three-story condominiums with expansive rooftop terraces, and an impressive range of communal and entertainment amenities.
Also in West Bay, sales have been swift for luxury residences at the Kimpton resort. The Residences at Seafire is Dart Realty’s first for-sale Seven Mile Beach property and includes 62 luxury residences in an elegant 10-story building next to the hotel.
Along with the privacy of a luxury residence, owners can take advantage of the resort’s top-flight amenities such as two ocean-view pools, multiple restaurants and bars, a signature spa, and the seaside walking and biking trail.
Cayman’s safe, sun-kissed climes, sophisticated infrastructure and easy airlift from the U.S. and Europe make it a good bet for developers, as well as an enduring tourist destination.
To remain competitive, modern infrastructure is critical and improvements are in the works in several key sectors.
The government broke ground on the $55-million expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport last fall. The airport will be enlarged to 200,000 square feet from 77,000 square feet, with opening expected by the end of 2018.
Once complete, the terminal will have capacity for some 2.5 million passengers.
Likewise, plans are in motion to build cruise berthing facilities in George Town harbor. The new facilities will allow larger ships, which do not use tenders as currently is the case, to come to Cayman, resulting in more shore time for visitors.
A multi-year project to redevelop roads around George Town is under way. Work has been completed on widening Godfrey Nixon Way, which connects Eastern Avenue to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and is viewed as a key route for traffic around George Town, as well as widening Smith Road through central George Town.
Work has also begun on widening the southernmost portion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to four lanes.
When completed, the entire length of the highway, all the way to Batabano Road in West Bay, will be a four-lane, dual-carriage road. The project is being undertaken by Dart Realty, in consultation with the National Roads Authority.
Enhanced by a robust regulatory and compliance framework, the island’s wide-reaching financial domain includes major presence of the world’s largest banks, sophisticated global law firms, top accounting firms, and dozens of small practitioners that service the industry.
It is among the world’s leading offshore hedge fund jurisdictions and is a global leader in ship registration, remaining the flag of choice for super yachts.
This favorable global reputation goes a long way in attracting investors along with a high-level talent pool of professionals to deliver expert services to international clients.
Dart Realty is a major player, investing in the financial services realm by offering the island’s largest concentration of ‘Class A’ office space in Camana Bay – more than 385,000 square feet.
According to the Global Financial Centres Index, business infrastructure and first-rate commercial property rank among the top 10 factors driving the competitiveness of global financial centers.
Established as a hub for Cayman’s financial services community, Dart Realty is planning to add a new four-story building in Camana Bay. The project will be an 86,000-square-foot sister building to the recently completed 18 Forum Lane, which has PwC as an anchor tenant with Hurley’s Media Group locating its broadcast operation on the ground floor. It will also include retail stores as well as other financial services firms.
Cayman Enterprise City is also making its mark. The technology-focused special economic zone has drawn some 170 companies across the globe specializing in such areas as digital marketing, media, commodities, biotech, and life sciences.
Its master plan includes construction of a permanent campus near George Town. It plans to break ground on phase one on the first of two $25-million gateway buildings later this year.
Ultimately, the CEC campus will occupy around 850,000-square-feet of mixed-use development, to be constructed over 20 years at a cost of $300 million.
All of these initiatives add up to significant change and improvements to the island – ushering in a welcome upgrade to global-class status.