7MB projects facing ups and downs

| 17/11/2020 | 73 Comments
The Westin Hotel, Grand Cayman

(CNS): The government’s dependence on continuous development to sustain the economy in Grand Cayman has faced some ups and downs over the last few weeks on existing and proposed projects in the Seven Mile Beach area. The Westin Resort owners’ plan for a 10-storey tower has been rejected, the approval of a budget hotel near the Mandalay condominiums is now facing judicial review and proposals to allow taller buildings are facing public opposition.

The current PPM-led coalition government has made no secret of the fact that development is its main policy platform to keep the economy going, prevent a further surge in unemployment and fuel its future spending programmes.

As a result, while Planning Minister Joey Hew constantly uses the term “sustainable development”, normally associated with a greener approach that doesn’t rule out opportunities for future generations, he has tended to use the term to refer to continuous development, regardless of the increasing environmental challenges we face.

The first results of the work that his ministry is undertaking on the national development plan is expected to be unveiled soon, with proposals for the Seven Mile Beach corridor going to public consultation.

How green these proposals will be remains to be seen but one of the main expectations regarding the changes to the zoning in the area is likely to be building heights.

Pressure from major developers, such as Cayman’s largest landowner, Dart, for skyscrapers reaching as high as 50 storeys is likely to see a proposal for much greater heights than the current 130ft maximum in hotel and tourism zones reaching the public consultation phase.

But the public has been critical of turning Seven Mile Beach into Miami Beach. And while some developers have been able to clear 10-storey projects, such as the latest Watermark condo development and the re-development of La Covia condos, others have been knocked back.

The Westin was refused planning permission last week for its revamp to ten storeys, and it’s not the only one. A proposal by The Shores (Libanon Corporation) for a 10-storey budget hotel was only given approval last year when it was reduced to seven floors. But the entire project remains under fire after objectors from the surrounding condos recently filed for judicial review regarding an appeal against the CPA’s decision to allow it at all.

Meanwhile, proposals for new developments continue. A glossy brochure proposing a 10-storey redevelopment of Aqua Bay condos between Silver Sands and the Palms has the green light from existing condo owners but has yet to go before planning. Other existing projects are also rumoured to be looking to revamp plans from ten storeys to twelve or more if the planning review results in a change to Seven Mile Beach building heights.

However, the current freeze on tourism in the Cayman Islands as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to take a toll on the development of new and existing beachfront property.

Last week the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton warned that the resort could soon be forced to close and others will follow. Last month the court ordered the winding up of the company running the Margaritaville resort, leaving the condo owners there indebted to the tune of some $1 million, as well as staff without pay or pension and the resort’s future in question.

While the upside for developers presented by rising building heights may prove an irresistible opportunity, the downside of public opinion, the uncertain economy and the threat of sea-level rise caused by climate change may combine to thwart those opportunities and leave a gaping hole in this administration’s policy platform.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (73)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In all seriousness, WTF is the difference between 6 storeys, 10 storeys or 12 storeys? In any of these cases you can’t see the beach from the road. Does it really make a difference to your life? How?

    The sidewalk’s in shade earlier in the afternoon?
    You can’t see the Plough in the night sky at certain times of year?
    The drone you like to fly down WBR has a max altitude of 100 ft?

    I don’t get it.

    It’s just the usual “I’m not benefitting so you shouldn’t either”.

    Aside from the economic benefits, taller, higher density buildings are actually much better for the environment than sprawl. We’re a thousand years from looking like Hong Kong and I challenge anyone to stand on the beach at the Kimpton and tell me how it would change their life if the building was two storeys shorter.

    If they would only increase the building height to 20 storeys in GT maybe people could actually get far enough away from the noise at street level (tourists and port trucks) to make it liveable again. And maybe developers would show some interest in the place.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh good. Now Dart can buy Margaritaville.

    I just heard that he bought The Lighthouse Restaurant. LMFAO

    So, yeah. y’all get ready for all dis here Dartanian Island. It comin’!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    The CIREBA cartel with zero accountability. That organization is anti-competitive and full of vultures.

  4. Anonymous says:

    These egregious real estate developers, closing companies, assorted associated beneficiaries, and their bogus Midas touch is full of garbage.

    Essentially laying claim to Caymanian land, property, and generational gems by using intimidation, undermining and undervaluation swindle to force peppercorn sales agreements against local owners and benefactors that don’t always know better is wrong.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, doing this all in the name of slapping up “luxury stickers” all over their newly acquired loot (which anybody with common sense knows that’s not how it works), marking up international realty websites with their heists, and using persuasion, overvaluation and overestimation flimflam (sometimes up to twenty-fold upon resale) for blatant cash grabbing is beyond criminal, disrespectful and disgusting of everyone involved.

    Pure gold or gold-plated? Even the poor can sniff out bad deals and even worse characters.

    The era of fake riches, grand appearances, Trumpian-like attitudes, presumptions, oppression tactics, and chuffed cockup pirates and conquistadores is over.

    The jig is up and the world is waking up to all the evil and self-fulfilling agendas, bag of tricks, and half-cut backdoor leadership tyrannies that have fooled too many for too long.

    The plantation doesn’t turn a profit if the slaves stop working for the slave masters, it is very simple. The challenge then becomes fairly balancing the scorecard, so that everyone get even cuts.

    Scurvy coming!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Remember the ads for Margaritaville income producing opportunity. Buy now limited supply. Buy now before prices rise. Well, where are the realtors now that they’ve collected their commissions from their clients that they lovingly courted? They’ve moved on to Aqua Bay. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware

    • Anonymous says:

      are the realtors supposed to have predicted that tourism would shut down? Margaritaville seemed to be doing quite well

      • Anonymous says:

        Smoke and mirrors 1:53. A lot of rather dubious positive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor made the place look good but if you dug through them there were a lot of very negative reviews that exactly reflected the real situation there. It was the old thing about you can’t polish a t***.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The majority of higher-priced condo developments on SMB sit empty most of the year in normal times. This is fact. Why we continue to allow higher/more density developments on the very same pieces of land in redevelopments is of no mystery – its to benefit the same, very few.

    The only people who ‘substantially’ benefit from ever larger high priced condo developments are the main general contractor, a few sub contractors, the listing agent for sales, the politician in charge of the district, maybe ALT (!), the lawyers and financiers taking their cut.

    The current sales in the large, high priced Watermark thing that seems to be being built closer to the road each day (seriously, how did this get thru planning?) are likely mostly being bought by current owners in the last high end resort, they are trading up, leaving their current ones empty. There is very few new buyers, the only people benefiting are the realtors, lawyers and bankers, all 3 industries skimming and leeching like cancerous plagues.

    The real problem? The rest of us, probably 95% will suffer. We suffer from the knock on effect of ‘false value’ causing prices everywhere else to rise behind this nonsense of $10M condos. We suffer from further lack of access or even being welcomed to the beach or the district itself. And so on.

    If building heights are being raised, surely we must expect distances to land perimeters to increase in proportion? Or is that something that a politician will ignore and just all of a sudden determine, oh, you needed 30 ft before for your 3 stories, but actually now its only 10 ft..off you go, thank you for the nice steak. FFS

    And now hearing there’s a 10 storey plan for Aqua Bay? Come off it, the heights must stop. The Kimpton should be the end of the tall buildings, leave the rest of it alone for crying out loud. Especially on the waterfont. You want height, build inland.

    everything, everything, everything about this country and planning is short term. And its a disaster coming at us like a tsunami in the medium term with higher buildings, mostly empty, no beach, etc, etc

    But as long as the very, very few can make a quick buck?

    what has happened to us?

    • Anonymous says:

      Its made my day to read that other people see the truth about how development here, under the guise of building the economy, is the main driver of increasing the cost of living.

      Every new development requires an increase to our infrastructure especially the hundreds of high end residences that will sit empty a majority of the time. Every built square foot increases our local power provider to generate more electricity, by law and for 80% use. The overhead demand is increasing daily but the consumption and remittance on overhead costs are left unpaid when that infrastructure is not being used to the capacity it was built for. The cost is therefore passed onto the rest of us.

      And to add insult to injury, our government continues to give concessions to these developers for the very same thing that is costing the public purse – the infrastructure.

      • Anonymous says:

        yes, 100%, yes! People don’t get it. There is NO trickle down, its all about lining the same few pockets and to hell with the rest of us.
        why do we put up with this? where are the protests? where are the candidates to run in this next election that can save their country?

        • Anonymous says:

          Many of us are not eligble. Been here since 2 weeks after birth and for almost 50 years but not “indigenous” (lol)

          • Anonymous says:

            No, you’re not. But your grandchildren will be able to run for office since you were Caymanian when they were born, right?

    • Anonymous says:

      You cry babies need to shut up; we need more development not less!To maintain our economy it is imperative that all these projects get the green light to start ASAP. Thank goodness we have a forward thinking government and a CPA board who know how business works and will not be swayed by a bunch of socialists who have loads of money and can just sit back while the rest of us starve. Honorable Hew, Chairman Thompson and vice Chairman Watler know how to get things done!

      • Anonymous says:

        This person is either one of the lucky ones, apparently entitled, getting kickbacks or an idiot errand runner that doesn’t know they won’t be invited to the grand feast yet.

        I hope you know the economy can be supported by things other than construction and real estate development. It is definitely not sustainable, wonder what they gonna do when the land runs out? (Cash out their casino chips I guess)

        By the way, the wealth is not staying here. In case the light bulb is still dim, these developers don’t see Cayman as special as we do, they are just dating us now until another country that looks better walks by and gives the time of day. Brilliant scholar needs to go finish that economics degree somewhere other than Dart University of Business.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sure the height limits have been increasing maybe a little too rapidly, but compared to many other tropical destinations there are still very few ‘high rise’ developments. Now is the time to stop the increases, and all of you have the ability to do so with your vote, so utilize it.
      However, to say that only the developers, real estate agents and contractors benefit is not realistic. You must consider the jobs created, and all that money being paid to workers is spent in the community, which benefits the economy in general. Additionally, and this is important….That mostly empty $10M condo provides $750k in tax revenue, and everyone you say is upsizing is also selling their existing property which is also contributing to tax revenue, as is the person upsizing to that persons property etc etc.
      This is even more important….This tax revenue contributes to you not having personal income tax, which is very rare in this world, and something that is taken for granted by many Caymanians. I would wager that if development stopped and government fell into deficit and levied personal income tax – all of the development haters here would be first in line to complain.

      • Anonymous says:

        “and all that money being paid to workers is spent in the community” for community read Western Union

    • Sea Wood says:

      IMO the boom in Cayman construction on 7 mile beach comes from the fact that currently FATCA laws in the US do not require disclosure of foreign real estate holdings.

      So, why not purchase a luxury condo on a mostly safe Caribbean island where you hide your money from the tax thieves and enjoy an occasional vacation?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Refusal of 10 storey development on Seven Mile Beach. What hypocrisy! But it is approved to build same in Beach Bay residential! Board making these decision need to go including Joey Hew!

  8. Brac Diver says:

    4:11 pm, There has never been much of anything in the way of “nice beaches” around Cayman Brac! Anyone saying there are, or ever was, is not telling the truth! Good snorkeling and good scuba diving, yes, but the lack of sand makes it impossible to have much in the way of good sand beaches.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If increasing building heights/storeys is about less impact to green space and the environment, then how come the allowable site coverage isnt reducing proportionately to the increased allowable heights?

    Lets stop pretending its anything but maximizing profits and greed please.

    • Anonymous says:

      A private sector board strikes again.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry but that private sector board is dictated to by our public sector Ministry. If they dont follow the rules, they will simply be replaced with a new group of “yes” men.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh stop it with your pro-civil service garbage.
        If the private sector ceased, your sorry behind would:-
        1. Have no one to criticize.
        2. Be out of a job.

        You glib remarks have become so tiresome that you are probably aware of the embarrassment you are causing yourself.

        Give it a rest, dude.
        Save the puppies or kittens, but until you can present a coherent argument, stay out of areas that you are clearly not mature or intelligent enough to contribute positively to.
        The same goes for the rest of the civil service. You are here to facilitate and fairly regulate our endeavours, not rule over us.
        If you were smart enough, you would be running your own businesses (Some of you are, on government time) .
        As it is, your salary is paid by those you criticize.
        Pathetic and puerile.

        I cannot believe I have wasted 3 minutes of my life on this, but there you have it.

      • Anonymous says:

        A political board, like most.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone in Cayman open up the newspapers, Twitter, insta in the rest on the world?

    Short sighted and going to crash and burn for sure, it’s a slow rolling recession that could deepen to a depression. Did you all know you can hardly get appliances in some places?

    Factor in all of the environmental catastrophes and….

    Well, you go ahead and build that 50 story tower!! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!

    You can’t fix stupid.

    BTW where’s your three main attractions lately? Sting ray city, SMB, and restaurants… disappearing as I write.

    Oh and safety. That’s gone, too.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am not complaining about the height, but please don’t build too close to the shoreline which results in erosion and open up the public beach accesses.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well written article.

    • Roger D. says:

      3.56pm I agree. Not many readers realise the immense amount of research and fact checking that many of these articles entail.When you consider all these articles and the review of hundreds of comments on them, all rest on the shoulders of two ladies, they should be commended for their efforts.

      • Anonymous says:

        And compensated.
        I propose that we all contribute to the tips jar, be it $1 or $100 to show our appreciation. Let make it our Christmas bonus to CNS. The only problem, I want to remain anonymous.

        CNS: All tips are gratefully received. Bank to bank transfers can be anonymous if you choose. Many thanks in advance!

        • Anonymous says:

          Because that’s somehow different or better than a paywall?

          CNS: I don’t understand the question. Our content is free for all, payment is optional. How is that not different?

  13. Anonymous says:

    sick of the nonsense regarding smb becoming another ‘miami beach’…..development of smb is a sign of the times and the popularity of the area.
    if you think a sleepy undeveloped beach is what tourists are after you are sorely mistaken…if that was the case, then cayman brac would be the a huge tourist success story.

    • Anonymous says:

      don’t recall seeing much of a beach on Cayman Brac the last time I was there

    • Anonymous says:

      If the Brac had decent airlift capacity it would have opened up.

    • Anonymous says:

      3:51 Stuff the tourists! The average local doesn’t want our 7-mile beach to look like Miami beach. I was born here in the early 90’s and it saddens me to remember what the beach used to be like. Also, who are we building all of this for!? we don’t have any tourists!

      • Anonymous says:

        3:51 the tourists do not want your beautiful 7-mile beach to look like Miami Beach either. I have been traveling down to your shores since the early 1990’s and it saddens me what I see happening with all the building going on. I do not like all the cement, the traffic, the tall buildings.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not tourists that are buying. Look at who buys all the high end Miami condos, ditto Dubai, ditto high end London property, ditto Vancouver. A lot of high end real estate is destined to never be occupied – its a means of laundering money, establishing residency for tax purposes or stashing value outside your own jurisdiction. Why do you think the CFATF identified failure to include realtors in money laundering supervision as a major risk for us? And even those buying with the honest intention of using as a holiday home often have numerous other properties and will only occupy for select parts of the year.

        The supposed benefits of people becoming physically resident and contributing to the local economy (other than paying strata fees) are often illusory. Don’t believe me? Take a drive down the length of West Bay road after dark and see how many of those condos don’t have lights on. If you are a foreign owner with a real intention of living here, wouldn’t you be in occupation now that the travel ban has been lifted to property owners rather than staying in your home country?

        • Anonymous says:

          111:30am – Great response here. And if anyone doesn’t believe this, you are ignorant and naïve.
          You folks better pull your head out and wake up even if it may be too late..

    • Anonymous says:

      Tourists like gambling and strip clubs. Should we give them what they want for some more easy money. Where is the edge of your greed?

      • Anonymous says:

        Tourists do like gambling and I am sure some like strip clubs, but we can go to Vegas for that. When we travel to a Caribbean island we aren’t looking for it to look like the city we just came from.

      • Anonymous says:

        4.33 Don’t for one minute think that that won’t happen. I give it 5 years and that’s exactly what we’ll have here. Morons flying in from Florida with money to burn. That monstrosity on West Bay Rd, Marble House, was built for that very purpose. You reap what you sow Cayman. Thankfully I’ll be back in Europe closer to a little bit more culture by then.

        • Anonymous says:

          6.30pm ” Thankfully I’ll be back in Europe closer to a little bit more culture by then”. Good then a little of it might rub off on you.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The Margaritaville resort (AKA TI) going, as everyone predicted, bust clearly opens that site up to a buy out and re-development.

    • Anonymous says:


      • Anonymous says:

        LOL 4:07, what was it someone posted when Margaritaville took the place over? Something along the lines of the only way to remediate the place was with a wrecking ball. I lived there when it was in long-term lets and the place was a tip. The rooms on the lower floors were a health hazard with black mold everywhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        #knockyourownshitholedown. It is private property. You have absolutely no say in what happens to anything that you don’t own Bobo. Why don’t you buy it and then do what you want with it?

  15. Anonymous says:

    you got to love the hypocrisy of existing condo owners now complaining about other condo developments.
    maybe they should move out and knowckdown their developments so cayman does not become ‘another miami’.
    pity some closed minds here cannot see that current projects are much better for the environment than the current buildings

    • Anonymous says:

      Please elaborate how they are better. Increased units equals increased occupants equals increased infrastructure needs (garbage, power, water, sewer etc) and they are not using any less land…

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