As published in the Cayman Compass – WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER, 2014
A rare image of the former Hyatt Grand Cayman, an iconic building in the heart of the Seven Mile Beach corridor.
Central Planning Board members this week approved renovations for the iconic old Hyatt hotel on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
The $8.1-million renovation will rebuild the hotel, which was destroyed in Hurricane Ivan, and add a new conference center and a second pool. The most noticeable change will be a pedestrian bridge over the highway to connect the new hotel to the Beach Suites resort and give guests access over the highway and West Bay Road to the beach.
The bridge will be an extension of the bridge over West Bay Road from the Grand Cayman Beach Suites.
While planning board members approved the 244-room hotel and the bridge, they held a decision on two condominium buildings proposed to go alongside the hotel.
Derek Serpell, an architect with Kariba representing Embassy Investments, told the Cayman Compass that the project is “pushing forward full steam ahead.”
Embassy owns both the old Hyatt property and the Grand Cayman Beach Suites, which fronts Seven Mile Beach.
Speaking with the Compass last month, Mr. Serpell said, “It is an iconic building in Cayman, and we were very keen to be involved in this project from the kickoff.”
Mr. Serpell said he hopes to be able to open the new hotel to the public in early 2017.
Several neighbors sent objections to the project to the Central Planning Authority. The concerns focused mainly on additional traffic on the highway, crowding on the beach and noise during construction.
The condo project, which is on hold for further discussion, would fill in the end of the canal running along Palm Heights Drive. The developer plans two condominium buildings for that site, one eight stories and the other five stories.
Cherry Bridges, a lawyer representing two neighbors, wrote to the planning authority: “Our client is concerned that his building will not be rentable or will be forced to accept a reduced rent as a result of construction at such proximity to the proposed project.”
The neighbors also said the water-chilling plant, which would be near their property, would be too noisy to have near a residential area.
In the same letter, the neighbors object to using Palm Harbor Drive as an access for the property and expressed concerns over increased traffic on the highway.
One objection sent to the Central Planning Board, which is published in the agenda without a name, states, “West Bay Road is already crowded bumper to bumper at rush hours. The infrastructure of that road cannot handle additional traffic, let alone the additional parking required.”
The old Hyatt property has been involved in a court battle for years since it was severely damaged in Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Embassy Investments sued its insurers over the storm damage in 2005, and since then the company has been involved in a legal back and forth.
The Hyatt was one of the most recognizable landmarks in Cayman. It was the site for many scenes in the Hollywood film “The Firm.”
The frame of the hotel sits bare, set back from the highway. Mr. Serpell said the exterior of the new hotel will look familiar to those who knew the Hyatt in its heyday, though it will have a new conference and banquet center on the property.