Walkable Town: Camana Bay

Almost 12 years after the Camana Bay town centre opened to the public, a new chapter in the town’s history has begun with the construction of OLEA, Camana Bay’s first for-sale residential community.

At the ground-breaking ceremony, President of Business Development for Dart’s Real Estate Division Jackie Doak imagined what life would look like for the future residents of OLEA.

“Children can walk or bike to school and you can walk to work if you work in one of the many firms in Camana Bay. If your child forgets their PE uniform, no stress – you are at the school in minutes. On a Friday evening you can stroll to Camana Bay, have an early dinner, catch a movie, people-watch on the Crescent, before a beautiful walk back home,” she says. “No car needed.”

Decco Vice President of Design Alex Russell says the accessibility and connectivity that are the hallmarks of Camana Bay are guided by Ken Dart’s progressive view of real estate development.

When Mr. Dart first visited the Cayman Islands in the late 1980s, the country was still in the early stages of its transformation from ‘the islands that time forgot’ to an offshore financial centre and world famous tourist destination. Since then, the small family office opened by Mr. Dart in 1993 has grown to become the base of his global operations and the largest real estate development company in the Cayman Islands. One of Dart’s most prominent contributions to the country’s physical environment is the master planned community of Camana Bay which encompasses more than 600 acres along Grand Cayman’s West Bay corridor.

“From where the school is placed to what residential offerings we are bringing to the market, nothing is by accident,” Russell says. “The availability of safe, pleasant walking routes is at a premium in Cayman. Our design methodology is customer-led to ensure connectivity and accessibility.”

Making Walking a Delight

At its most basic, connectivity is about moving people from point A to point B, and is essential to building a pedestrian-oriented, transit-friendly community. But, to encourage people to walk from one place to another, the journey must also be easily navigable, safe, comfortable and interesting.

Decco Senior Manager Landscape Design and Horticulture Whit Connors says the distinctive landscaping and attention to detail that characterise Dart’s developments help make walking a delight.

“We use colour, texture, water, landscaping, and architectural details to make the journey less monotonous,” Connors says. “Walkability is not just about providing safe pedestrian zones, it’s about making them a pleasure to use.”

Connors points to the many unique pathways that meander through Camana Bay as examples: No matter where one might want to go in the town centre, there is always more than one way to get there, and each route features its own element of charm, from bubbling water features and tile mosaics, to hidden gardens bursting with colour.

“Natural elements are an essential component of walkability: trees regulate temperature, reduce noise and air pollution, and colourful plants at the end of a long path make the journey seem shorter,” Connors says. “To the user, the landscaping should seem organic. Most people will never know the amount of work behind it all.”

Indeed, Dart’s passion for trees is put to good use within Camana Bay, with the Dart Arboretum supplying everything from seedlings to mature trees as needed. A newly built road will be sparse one week and the next lined with towering mahogany trees, seemingly out of nowhere.

Russell explains that, as the footprint of Camana Bay expands, so does the number of safe walking routes. One of the newest additions is a pedestrian subway beneath the Esterley Tibbetts Highway connecting OLEA and CIS to the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands on the other side of the six-lane roadway. In the near future, the subway will also allow students to travel from school to the playing fields at the new Cayman Islands Rugby Club without ever having to interface with traffic. Similarly, the Rise at Camana Bay will one day connect sea to sound, allowing visitors and residents uninterrupted pedestrian access to Seven Mile Beach.

“The ability to safely walk or bike from one area to another affects the perception of quality of life in that neighbourhood,” Russell says. “Studies have demonstrated the positive links between walkability and social relations, and physical and mental wellbeing. Rather than encouraging people to live and work in silos, we designed Camana Bay to accommodate diverse uses and users in order to facilitate the creation of a dynamic community that has beautiful shared spaces everyone can enjoy.”

Walkability and Real Estate Values

Walkability not only contributes to increased quality of life but also increased land values. Russell says research from the United States demonstrates that land values generally increase with walkability and that this result is more stable over time compared to car-dependant areas.

“As the population of the Cayman Islands continues to grow, walkability is going to be increasingly important not just to quality of life and sustainable development but also real estate potential,” Russell says. “As the saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location.”

As one of the first examples of a master-planned, mixed use community in the Cayman Islands, Camana Bay encompasses all the amenities necessary to live, work and play, all within easy walking distance. In addition to OLEA, ongoing projects include the construction of a new Foster’s Food Fair supermarket, the expansion of Cayman International School (CIS), and the development of Coral Beach, a new restaurant and bar at the Camana Bay Beach.

“Camana Bay was intentionally designed so people could truly live, work and play in the same community,” he says. “It’s a much longer-term view on real estate development that creates a positive synergy between sustainable economic development for the company and for the country.”

As one of the largest real estate developers in the Cayman Islands and the country’s largest private employer, Russell says Dart understands the importance of planning for the future.

“Through thoughtful design and a holistic outlook, you can balance current development needs with those of future generations,” he says.

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