As published in the Caymanian Compass TUESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2013
A recent major construction contract in Turks and Caicos Islands and downtown commercial building in Bahamas are evidence of the Dart Group’s growing interest in the wider Caribbean.
Meanwhile, in the Cayman Islands, many of Dart’s planned projects have fallen into limbo since the May election of the new People’s Progressive Movement government.
Turks and Caicos
The Turks and Caicos project “is part of a new regional focus” for Dart, according to a news release.
Cameron Graham, CEO of Dart’s construction firm DECCO, said, “We are expanding our active investment portfolio and we have a particular focus in the Caribbean region on opportunities in tourism-led markets.”
Last week, Dart and The Hartling Group of Turks and Caicos announced they are partnering to build a US$80 million luxury condo resort project in Providenciales.
DECCO will provide construction management services for the first phase of the 9-acre Shore Club development, including 38 condos and amenities.
The project is the latest large-scale condo resort project in Turks and Caicos by The Hartling Group, a private luxury recreational property development firm based there. Funding was arranged through U.S. commercial real estate firm NGKF Capital Markets.
The Hartling Group CEO Stan Hartling said, “Having DECCO as a strategic partner is an immense sign of confidence in the Shore Club product and the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Bahamas, Caribbean, elsewhere
While Dart does not have an ownership stake in the Turks and Caicos project, the company recently finished refurbishment of a commercial building in Nassau that it purchased a few years ago. According to a March story in the Bahamas Tribune, the Bahamas government has made it a priority to redevelop downtown Nassau, including waiving import duty on items used to repair and upgrade downtown properties.
Mr. Graham said Dart’s redevelopment of the former BayParl Building “complements wider efforts in the local community to revitalize and improve the downtown experience in Nassau.”
In Cayman, Dart announced in late August that it was reducing waterfront operations of its retail arm Island Companies, citing dwindling cruise arrivals and no prospect of new cruise berthing facilities for at least the next several years. It is unknown what Dart will do with the soon-to-be vacant space in its Flagship building downtown.
Dart’s not just in Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, though. Mr. Graham said, “Dart is in the early stages of reviewing projects in St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Antigua and Jamaica.”
Additionally, according to the website of Dart owner Ken Dart, he “is involved in a number of recreational and commercial real estate development and retail operations in the United States, the Cayman Islands and other parts of the world, e.g. South America, Europe and the Far East.”
Cayman has had a special place in Mr. Dart’s investment portfolio since he purchased the former West Indian Club Hotel in 1995, along with 238 acres of land from Seven Mile Beach to North Sound, the seed of what is now the Camana Bay development.
Currently, Dart is forging ahead with a $139 million Kimpton hotel project, consisting of two 10-story buildings at the site of the former Courtyard Marriott hotel. The resort development is part of the ForCayman Investment Alliance deal the company struck with the former United Democratic Party government.
In exchange for the closure of a stretch of West Bay Road near the hotel and Public Beach, Dart extended the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Yacht Drive. The company has also completed a further extension of the highway to Batabano Road, but that new section of the highway remains closed pending Cabinet approval.
Plans for the road swap and hotel development are contained in a part of the ForCayman deal known as the National Roads Authority Agreement. According to the rest of the ForCayman deal, Dart was to close and remediate the George Town Landfill adjacent to Camana Bay and provide land for a new waste management facility in the district of Bodden Town, near the Midland Acres development.
The George Town Landfill closure would enable Dart to greatly expand the residential component of Camana Bay.
However, shortly after assuming control of the government after the May election, the Progressives Cabinet declared it would not support any new waste management facility in Bodden Town, and it would seek to address waste management problems at the existing site.
The new government and Dart did not sit down to talk about their plans for nearly two months following the election. Premier Alden McLaughlin’s “99-Day Message” released last week mentions Dart several times, but with few specifics.
“We have reopened discussions with the Dart Group and good progress is being made on a variety of issues, including waste management,” according to the report.
The new government claims to “have begun negotiations with the Dart Group on the National Roads Authority agreement,” and is “continuing discussions with the Dart Group on the best solutions for waste management at the existing site.”
Although new residential development at Camana Bay largely hinges on the presence of the nearby landfill, Dart continues to add on to the commercial inventory in the development. Currently, Dart is constructing a four-story retail and office building at 18 Forum Lane. Construction started in July and was tentatively scheduled to be completed by early 2015.
ForCayman documents also indicate Dart was considering three more potential hotel developments on West Bay Road, an ecotourism hotel either in Barkers or off the Esterley Tibbetts next to North Sound, 425 condos near the hotels, more than 1,000 homes along the Esterley Tibbetts extension, and two commercial centers.