When Ken Dart began his quest to build what is now Camana Bay, few people understood the magnitude and complexity of this enterprise. It wasn’t a retail complex or a residential community or a public space. It was considered all of these and much more and it required serious commitment from a diverse group of highly skilled professionals, innovators, visionaries and thinkers to bring the dream to fruition.
Dart Enterprises CEO Mark VanDevelde and former Dart Real Estate Managing Director Jim Lammers, two of the company’s original staff members, led the charge to build this exceptional team. They knew having the best of the best seated at the table was critical to the project’s success.
“We were on a mission and failure was not an option,” says VanDevelde. “The scale and significance of what we were undertaking required a variety of talents from truly thoughtful and dedicated professionals at the top of their game.”
COMMUNITY BY DESIGN
Ken Dart’s desire to bring New Urbanism to Grand Cayman was a movement that would bring people together in a setting built with sustainability, walkability and enhanced quality of life in mind. Fostering human connection and a spirit of community required a multi-faceted and intelligent design. From architecture and engineering to landscaping and lighting, Grand Cayman’s newest town needed a sophisticated master plan with meticulous design that could grow with the island.
In 1996, Dart’s vision began to take shape. Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners, a U.S. firm based in California, was engaged to master plan the new community. This group of urban planners and architects had an established track record of success on a variety of projects worldwide, including master-planned towns, university campuses and civic spaces.
“Working with Dart was a career highlight for us,” says Moore Ruble Yudell Design Partner Buzz Yudell. “They sought out a diverse group of experts from around the world to realise their dream of a Town Centre based on the highest aspirations. Their commitment to a mixed-use community with a full array of residential, retail, office, recreational and educational facilities is unique in the world of real estate development.”
Around the same time, OLIN — the celebrated team of urban landscape architects behind New York City’s Bryant Park — was tasked with creating a landscape design that was sustainable and sensitive to local conditions. Under the direction of Partner Dennis McGlade, plans for the natural environment were developed to ensure use of indigenous and endemic plant species. The Dart Nursery was established in 1997 and began propagating more than 1,000 species of plants, initially all intended for use at Camana Bay.
McGlade recalls the early days of planning and design. “I knew we were part of something big for this small island,” he says. “What made our collaboration work was that every person and firm involved — including Dart as the client — was engaged, every step of the way.”
COMPLETING THE DREAM TEAM
Joining the effort were Decco/Dart Development President Cameron Graham, Dart Real Estate President Jackie Doak, and Senior Vice President of Development and Engineering Justin Howe, along with a growing team that continues to serve the dream today.
On the ground, the team of architects at The Burns Connolly Group provided local support, bringing with them invaluable knowledge of the Cayman Islands’ natural and cultural environment.
With the project underway, additional experts joined the ranks. Illumination design was expertly guided by L’Observatoire International, a renowned lighting design firm who has completed high profile work for clients such as Musée de Louvre in Paris, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and The Highline in New York City.
Water was also a core component in the original plans and the solution came in the form of dancing fountains created by Fluidity Design Consultants, an award-winning, Los Angeles-based team of architects, designers and engineers.
Hurricane Ivan intervened, but the effects were quickly overcome.
“We were on a mission that we knew would be executed without fail, simply because the talented people who invested their time and expertise would deliver on their promise,” said Doak, who noted the devastating impact of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 briefly dampened progress.
“Construction was temporarily delayed as a result, but our team picked up the pieces and the pace to put us back on track to open Camana Bay’s doors in 2005. We proved that, in spite of great adversity, our pursuit of excellence would be attained. It’s a bar we set and continue to meet, even exceed, on every project we have delivered since.” “We rose above all challenges,” says Doak. “After Hurricane Ivan in 2004, construction was delayed, but by 2005 we were back on track and our amazing team of collaborators continued in the pursuit of excellence.”
In November 2007, Camana Bay’s Town Centre opened its doors, but that was only the beginning of the development process. In 2008, two design and architectural charrettes were held. Both were led by Duane Plater-Zyberk with the goal of refining and completing Camana Bay’s master plan. DPZ founding partner Andres Duany spearheaded the design workshops which included collaboration from the original design teams, key decision makers, government representatives, cultural experts and members of the public. Once again, teamwork was making the dream work and the result included the next phase of expansion.
Participating in the second charrette that year was Lake|Flato, an award-winning architectural firm based in San Antonio, Texas. Its contribution only strengthened the collaborative experience, adding a distinctive architectural style to the new plans. Lake|Flato is now involved in the master planning of future Camana Bay development.
Graham said the team assembled has been critical to Camana Bay’s success.
“The difference between success and failure can be attributed to the many remarkable people we had around the table,” says Graham. “This was an incredibly large and complex undertaking with many risk factors. The people involved tested limits and pushed boundaries and that’s why their contributions helped make the dream come true.”