On Nov. 8, 2007, a crowd gathered to watch a ceremonial ribbon cutting, officially opening the 62 Forum Lane building in Camana Bay.
That building, the first large-scale commercial office building in Camana Bay, was also the first building in the Town Centre to open, although Cayman International School, just a little to the south of the Town Centre, had opened the year before. Several other buildings in Camana Bay opened in the weeks that followed. In the 10 years since, the Town Centre has expanded, with three more Class A office buildings opening and a fourth nearing completion now.
Cameron Graham, president of Decco/Dart Development, remembers the painstaking efforts that went into building 62 Forum Lane, a moniker he doesn’t readily assimilate with the building.
“It will always be Block 6 for me,” he says with a laugh, referring to the project team’s practice of referring to all of Camana Bay’s development using industry-standard terms involving a block reference system. Graham, who had previously been the principal at the construction company Hadsphaltic International before joining Dart in 2003, said that previously, buildings just weren’t constructed to the same design standards.
The difference in the 62 Forum Lane building compared to others in the Cayman Islands at the time started with the extraordinary efforts of the design team, led by California-based architecture firm, Moore Ruble Yudell.
“MRY were the design architects for that building and for the first five blocks of the Town Centre,” says Decco/Dart Development Senior Vice President Justin Howe, noting that Spillis Candela out of Miami did the production architecture on 62 Forum Lane and Olin Partnership did the landscape design.
Some of the architectural mastery is easy to see in the finished product. Rather than presenting a basic rectangular structure, pretty much the norm for most of Grand Cayman’s office buildings at the time, 62 Forum Lane offers different looks from every vantage point, and is, in Howe’s opinion, perfectly dimensioned.
But it’s the attention to detail on the building that was different from anything the Cayman Islands had ever seen.
“When you look at the tower element, if you’re on that side of the building, you can see how detailed it is,” Howe says. “But the design is like an iceberg: you see part of it, but there’s another part of it beyond that that you never see at all.”
Constructing the building design was more difficult than usual for the general contractor, McAlpine Ltd. Graham says not just any contractor could deal with the level of intricacy needed for a building like 62 Forum Lane, but that McAlpine did a very good job.
Not all of the design work was done just to make the building look pretty; it was also designed to be stronger than other buildings in the Cayman Islands at the time.
“We had decided that we would use the Miami-Dade Building Code, which was the first hurricane-rated building code ever implemented,” says Graham. “It was way above the Cayman Building Code at the time, and had its own complexities and nuances. Every component of the external envelope had to be rated or certified as a Miami-Dade Building Code compliant material.”
BUMPS IN THE ROAD
Designing and constructing a groundbreaking type of building doesn’t come without the necessity of scaling a learning curve. In the case of 62 Forum Lane, that translated into a completion delay.
“I think it’s fair to say we all underestimated how complicated it was and how long it was going to take for details to be completed or to have materials be fabricated,” says Howe, adding that the construction also took place during the post-Hurricane Ivan building/renovation boom, when there were many factors leading to building delays on Grand Cayman.
However, the most significant delay on 62 Forum Lane had nothing to do with the general contractor: it didn’t meet Cayman’s building code as it was designed.
“The roof terrace is occupiable space,” says Howe. “The design was by MRY, the production architecture was by Spillis Candela and it was then reviewed by a third-party code consultant because the Planning Department was so busy. When the plan reviewer, who now works for us, was reviewing one of the tenant fit-outs, he looked at that section of the building and realised that because the roof terrace was occupiable, it was actually a high-rise building. Once he realised that — and obviously he couldn’t unrealise that or not act on it — we then had to make changes to the building infrastructure and pressurise the stairwells and do some other improvements to the building, which delayed the completion and the tenant’s occupation.”
Decco/Dart Development learned from the process on 62 Forum Lane and although the construction of subsequent buildings has gone more smoothly, Graham says the process is never easy.
“Each building has its own set of challenges and when it comes to changes, the cause and effect is not linear — one plus one does not equal two,” he says. “The construction industry doesn’t deal with changes efficiently and it’s probably not any worse or better here than anywhere else.”
BUILT TO LAST
Looking at the 62 Forum Lane building now, Howe says it has aged gracefully.
“It looks good now because it was very well built,” he says. “It was thoroughly designed and specified and McAlpine did a very good job with it.” Beyond its good looks, 62 Forum Lane was built to last.
“It has solid concrete walls, which reduces the potential for exterior rust stains and unsightly cracks in the exterior concrete after 10 years or so.
As the Town Centre continues to expand over its second decade, both Howe and Graham believe 62 Forum Lane will continue to hold its own in terms of uniqueness and place in Camana Bay.
“I think it’s a spectacular building,” says Graham. “It might appear small as we build taller buildings in the Town Centre, but its genuine character will prevail.”
Howe sees 62 Forum Lane as a “landmark building.”
“That’s because it was literally a landmark when it was first opened,” he says. “And it has such a prime location, one that will always be one of the best locations not only in Camana Bay, but on Grand Cayman. Good for EY, Cayman National and London & Amsterdam to have the foresight to get in early.”
Howe recalls what the opening of a building signified a decade ago.
“It definitely made everybody aware, ourselves included, of how special Camana Bay was going to be.”