Recently something that has becoming exceedingly rare has happened in the Cayman Islands.
The tiny island nation’s Central Planning Authority voted to reject the Dart group of companies plans to expand the total length of a controversial overpass it is currently constructing on West Bay Road. This overpass, the second the company has built in the area, is centrally located in the Cayman Islands main tourist district of 7 Mile Beach. Why a longer tunnel? In short, because a longer tunnel equals more money.
Company reps from Dart appeared before the Central Planning Authority recently in an attempt to influence public opinion on the matter. Many in the country have voiced concerns that this latest construction effort will result in restricted beach accesses, cause trouble for larger vehicles attempting to access the area, cause traffic issues and many have remarked that it is an eyesore. The Cayman Islands National Roads Authority rejected the request to extend the structure saying that there was just not enough sufficient justification for the extension of the already herculean structure (herculean for the area at least). This is a rare rejection for the nation’s largest real estate holder as the National Roads Authority had initially supported the construction of the first plan for the structure. The Dart group has stated that theywill wait for the Central Planning Authority to release its official decision description before moving forward with options.
The proposed extension to the tunnel on West Bay Road was to be in the neighborhood of nearly 200 feet. This would bring the total length to over 600 feet as they currently have approval for a 406-foot overpass of the road. The National Roads Authority had supported the initial plans. This initial construction is nearing completion and the overarching goal of the structure is to provide uninterrupted access from Dart’s Camana Bay development on North Sound to the company’s newly acquired lands that currently house the Royal Palms Beach Club. Another branch of the Dart suite of companies, Dart Real Estate, announced that it acquired the Royal Palms site earlier in the year. Details on that purchase have been kept private.
The Cayman Islands National Roads Authority had initially supported the first application but has formally objected to the extension stating that the developer had not provided sufficient justification to show that it was necessary for the structure to be that large. Within this ruling were the aforementioned issues with the management of traffic, specifically larger vehicles and their ability to navigate the space. Dart reps state that the original tunnel design was to be much larger but that negotiations over the purchase of the Royal Palms landstook longer than anticipated. This prevented the original application for the larger tunnel from being submitted at the onset of the project.
One only needs to look at the economics to understand why the Dart group would want a larger tunnel. A larger tunnel, simply put, creates a much larger space atop the tunnel. This, in turn, creates more sellable real estate above the tunnel. On this additional space Dart can lease or sell mixed-use spaces of all kinds. Shops, restaurants and Condos can all go above this chunk of enclosed road. One thing about tiny island nations, they have a finite amount of land. What is a solution to this? Create real estate where there was no real estate before. In this instance, we see volumetric air space that can be issued block and parcel numbers and then this air has real value. For now, the extension is a no go. Forever? We’ll see…