As published in the Cayman Compass: 3 FEBRUARY, 2015
A section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway will be expanded to four lanes and shifted to the west.
Dart Realty has unveiled its plans for a dramatic $300 million expansion to Camana Bay, using broad landscaped bridges and elevating land to connect the town center to a new five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach.
The next phase of the development will see $60 million in engineering work to create two new underpasses on West Bay Road and the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, which will be re-routed to the west and expanded to four lanes.
The land between Camana Bay and Seven Mile Beach will be raised to create an artificial hill rising to a peak of around 36 feet, roughly the height of a three-story building.
The new hotel will be set well back from the ocean and will span both sides of West Bay Road. Motorists will pass underneath it as they travel along the road, through an underpass. Camana Bay itself will expand to the west with the addition of new restaurants and retail outlets.
Pedestrians will be able to walk from Seven Mile Beach to the current Camana Bay town center along an avenue that bridges both highways, over a large ground-level parking lot.
A planning application for the engineering work and road building project is expected to be put in within the next few months. Government caucus, the National Roads Authority and the Central Planning Authority have already received presentations on the plans.
Dart Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak said the ambitious project aims to bring something new to the Cayman Islands, allowing people to transition smoothly and safely from the sun, sea and sand of Seven Mile Beach to access the amenities of the Camana Bay town center.
She said the large investment in altering the landscape around Camana Bay is worth the expense because it will achieve the long-held ambition of “sea to sound connectivity.”
Work on the hotel will likely begin in 2017, once the road restructuring is complete and the underpasses have been built. Dart is currently in negotiations with several five-star brands about the project, with a decision expected in the next few months.
Preliminary plans for the hotel indicate a mix of around 150 guest rooms, 100 residences, and approximately 6,000 square feet of conference space.
The proposed new road layout will see the current stretch of the Esterley Tibbetts highway that passes in front of the town center become an internal road within Camana Bay.
Dart will fund a new four-lane stretch of highway, shifted slightly inland, between the Camana Bay roundabout and the Galleria roundabout.
Under the previous arrangement, government would have paid for the expansion if and when it completed a similar expansion to four lanes of the larger stretch of the highway between the Butterfield roundabout, next to A.L. Thompson, and the Camana Bay roundabout.
Ms. Doak said the Camana Bay project is just the first phase in a massive 10-year expansion plan, which will also include more office space, retail, restaurants and potentially a business hotel on the North Sound side of the development.
She said the investment shows Dart has confidence in Cayman’s economy and the capacity of the tourism industry to expand. A record 380,000 stay-over visitors touched down on island in 2014, and Dart believes those numbers are likely to go up.
Ms. Doak said the completion of the Kimpton hotel and the planned five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach would attract new tourists through their own marketing. She said signs that the “much-needed” airport development is moving ahead suggest a bright future for the tourism industry.