The Island Resort and Residences
The brainchild and developer of The Island Resort and Residences is Michael Beggs. An 18-year veteran of the development and hospitality industry, he has held high positions in the tourism and development industries around the world. He has assembled the ultimate team of professionals in order to bring this incredible project to life and has well over 40 professionals, all working full-time on design and development to create this international standard five-star hotel, but which could very well be considered a six-star hotel here in Grand Cayman. Beggs picked Rafael Amuchastegui of R.A.D. Architecture Inc. as his lead architect; he is one of the architects behind the world’s only seven-star resort Burj Al Arab Suite Hotel in Dubai and other high end developments. Together, with the other teams of architects (in three countries), 18 months of re-drawings and re-designs were painstakingly poured over in order to get every tiny element just right for the resort. Considering Beggs started out in May 2006 with just a blank piece of paper, he has moved considerably fast by industry standards and has done so without compromising his vision or his design ideals. (To date, he has already sold 33 percent of the resort).
Amuchastegui followed the design brief and wanted the resort to have a magnetic personality and positive energy so that guests and owners alike can easily enter into a state of relaxation, their perspective and balance regained, as soon as they enter the Porte Cochere. “Designing the project to function as a hotel is a priority to achieve a successful condo-hotel project. We particularly spent a lot of time designing and developing the public areas like the arrival building to make sure that the first impression is effective in changing the pace of the tired traveler into a soothing experience. All the common areas are unique and well thought-out to make a mark on the visitor and set them on a relaxed journey full of surprises at every turn,” he says.
The resort’s design is based on soft Mediterranean architectural parameters, combining gentle arches and Tuscan columns with glass and aluminum railings for increased ocean views, as well as a soft palette of materials, textures and colours to give a soft Caribbean feeling and abundant light. The three five-storey buildings with Spanish tiled rooftops were carefully designed to maximise ocean views, enhanced by the generous ocean frontage. No matter which suite you are in, uninterrupted views of the ocean abound you, thanks to the clever design of the balconies, which all contain side windows that have private vertical louver blinds allowing you to see out without anyone able to peer in. The way the site is elevated and the buildings angled the utmost privacy is guaranteed allowing you to sink into a state of peace and tranquillity.
All suites will contain 10-foot-high ceilings, travertine floors, large terraces and oversized sliding glass doors (hurricane-glazed) so that the relationship between indoor and outdoor space will be seamless, according to Amuchastegui. The spacious Great Room is designed as an open-concept living area, perfect for entertaining guests as they mingle with cocktails between the veranda and the lounge or dining area. The chic and stylish furniture, provided as a turnkey package by a world-class interior design firm, will allow you and your guests or family to settle into a blissful state. The smart design kitchen will have granite and marble countertops, top-of-the-line appliances and fixtures and wine coolers and racks. The master bedroom is designed with spacious walk-in-closets and glorious views of the ocean. You will be able to let the soothing sounds of the waves put you to sleep and when you wake up in the morning, the glorious sunrise will be ready to greet you. “When I first looked at sites, I looked at orientation. We have beautiful onshore breezes all year round and people love to be able to wake up in bed or go to sleep to the sound of the ocean. To me what makes a seaside destination is the ability to hear and smell the sea,” says Beggs. The penthouses are a destination in their own right; the 19-foot vaulted ceilings and mezzanine dens will house an office and library, and will be built to be more like rustic homes perched atop of the buildings (enhanced by timber-framed trellises on all of their terraces). It is easy to envision walking up the spiral staircase and settling in at your desk for an afternoon’s worth of work while you wistfully look out to the blue sea directly in front of you; the feeling of expansiveness, the columns, the classical proportions all coming together to clear your thoughts and calm your mind.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws for investors will be the fact that every suite at the resort – no matter what size – contains a “lockout” studio, which allows you to generate income through a professionally managed rental program. Many suites contain more than one of these studios, and the penthouses even contain two or three, giving you maximum return on your investment for potentially lucrative results. The studios have their own separate entranceways, air conditioning units, four-fixture bathrooms, mini bars, spacious living areas and outside terraces, making them five-star hotel rooms in their own right. Says Amuchastegui: “We have developed a true luxury condominium project that is unique in the Cayman Islands in which every bedroom will be able to be rented separately no mater how large the suite is, every secondary bedroom has been designed as a hotel junior suite [lock-out suite]. This makes the property very unique and economically interesting since the owner can be staying in one bedroom and rent the rest of the suite. The ability to rent a studio, one, two or three bedroom suite together or in parts allows the property operator maximum flexibility.” Beggs believes that 95 percent of purchasers will be part of the rental program, with a variety of options for set-up available to the investor. “I want them to see capital appreciation. More and more people are looking for a return on their investment, not just purchasing a vacation home from a lifestyle point of view. They don’t want to have to take money out of their pocket to manage their investment, but rather, they want the investment to offset the costs of ownership and to make a profit,” Beggs says.
Hidden “smart operational design” features have been strategically incorporated into the resort’s design and Beggs feels that they are essential for the ultimate guest experience. In fact, he will spend upward of US$22 million dollars on the site amenities alone, believing they will make the resort more cost-efficient to run and more attractive to the mainstream five star tourist market. From a maintenance point of view, all of the water, electrical and plumbing lines are built on the ceilings of the underground corridors, which mean he can compartmentalise a section if a problem arises. Underground tunnels for all back-of-house services will not only allocate more space for the site amenities above-ground but will also hide from view all housekeeping services including maid’s quarters, a preparation kitchen, mechanical, electrical, maintenance, linen and trash rooms. This means that you will never be exposed to the operational clutter of the resort operations and never see staff until you need them because staff will utilise underground tunnels to transport goods throughout the resort, entering and exiting at barely noticeable and cleverly placed areas. The separation of elevators between service staff and public use will also create privacy and convenience so that the day-to-day operations will never encroach on the guest experience, including cars, thanks to the underground parking, which will contain lockable storage areas as well as elevators to whisk you up to the floor of your suite.
Beggs will be creating a masterpiece in technology with smart card systems and a Customer Recognition Module (CRM) that will allow the resort to deliver a more personalised experience to the high-end clientele. Remember those dinner patrons drinking their favourite bottle of wine when you first checked in? That will be courtesy of this system, allowing resort staff to track your food and wine tastes, preferred recreational activities and interests from previous stays and accommodate you accordingly. Now that is service. “This resort is so far ahead in terms of operational and mechanical design from any other project in the Caribbean, that nothing comes close to it,” says Beggs. Kim Lund of RE/MAX, the real estate company attached to the resort, feels that Beggs represents a new breed of developer for the Cayman Islands because he sees the bigger picture and has raised the bar on resort development here. “His ‘work of genius’ is The Island Resort and Residences, which is not only a new resort concept for Grand Cayman, being a pure condo-hotel, but will also be a destination. The true impact of this resort is yet to be realised. However, by late 2010, the Cayman Islands will have a six-star property with uncompromised levels of service, facilities and amenities,” says Lund.
The site amenities are nothing short of spectacular. The buildings are angled in an S-shape to surround a pool that is 500 linear feet in length – the size of a football field – and will offer multiple poolside experiences. Essentially, it is four pools put together with an island in the middle that can be accessed by a bridge and will include an alfresco grill. Natural rock sculptures and boulders will surround the island and divide the pools into six or seven private little beaches to create secluded, romantic enclaves. The main pool will have a swim-up bar and waterfalls cascading into other waterfalls that trickle down into smaller pools. Some areas will contain sandy beaches that go straight into the pool allowing you to settle into a lounger with a cool cocktail in hand and your feet gently wading in the water. For the children, a large rock will have a hidden water slide inside; a long thin beach will allow them to compete for the tallest sand castles as they skim the shallow waters for the perfect scoop of sand. Parents can lounge in the nearby gazebos with friends and neighbours amongst the rolling lawns, the tall palm trees and natural rock sculptures, and they can keep a watchful eye as their children play. Beggs also plans on incorporating non-intrusive theme evenings such as string quartets and Calypso bands; flaming torches and mood lighting will act as the backdrop to this tropical dreamscape. Later, you can sneak off for a romantic stroll along one of the pathways that leads downward to the sandy, white beach, which is 800 feet in length.
The entire beach area is sheltered from the waves due to the coral reef just beyond and will be enhanced by a dock as well as a PADI five-star dive shop and water sports centre. Every day, staff will be on-hand to organise your dive, snorkel and kayak trips and provide all of your rental gear. The water sports centre will even contain a training pool to prep you for your diving adventures in the nearby spectacular reefs. “I designed this project all around the guest experience. I want people to have privacy, to be able to walk into an alcove and lounge in peace and quiet or partake in activities and socialise with others. It’s very important for a resort to have different areas for different types of people so they can be pulled into different attractions. You don’t want 200 people in one area. The smart design features will allow the resort to never seem busy,” Beggs says.
He will also be incorporating multiple restaurant experiences, with one large kitchen servicing each restaurant. The elegant colonial lobby bar will serve mid-day snacks and pub-style fare with an upscale atmosphere harkening back to olden days. The bar will open onto a sky-lit lounge, which will lead to the main fine-dining Italian restaurant that will be for evening only, but also lead to a Tuscan-style deli, which will serve continental breakfasts, lunch and dinner in the open-air courtyard. The café will contain Mediterranean-style seats and umbrellas and water features. Of course, there is also the Alfresco grill on the pool’s island as well as in-suite room service, should you prefer a more intimate dinner. After you have caught up with your friends over a lazy-afternoon lunch and have sipped your last café latte, you will be able to stroll through the shopping promenade where a high-end jewellery shop, art gallery, designer clothing store, a wine and cheese shop (with imported meats) and a gift shop will beckon you in. If you want some quiet time for yourself, you can drop the children off at the jungle gym located at the supervised day-care centre, which is complete with video games and big screen TVs for the older children. There is also an elegant ballroom in the upper levels of the arrival building that will be used for conferences, charity events and private black-tie functions. A media room next door will provide business and fibre-optic cable and wireless Internet services. There will also be wireless internet service throughout the premises.
Further along the promenade, Beggs has plans for a 15,000-square-foot Oriental spa and wellness centre that will offer exotic services influenced from the time he spent in Asia. The building itself will be an eclectic mix of styles with Asian, Colonial and old Barbadian plantation-type influences and will replicate a rustic plantation farmhouse with stone walls, wood shutters, Asian slate floors and bamboo elements throughout. The spa will contain a salon, retail store, men’s and women’s locker rooms, eight private treatment rooms, dry grooming areas, Turkish steam rooms, saunas, outdoor showers and Jacuzzis. A volcanic-like rock wall with four treatment grottos embedded in between will surround the premises; the grottos and intimate enclaves will be spread out along the wall. In each enclave, bamboo frames will hang above white futons and cushions so that masseuses can use them for support while they walk on your back (an Asian massage speciality). Water features will be incorporated throughout, as well as a warm mineral salt-water pool that will soothe your aches and pains and awaken your senses. Asian gardens, bridges and Balinese pagodas will complete the spa’s ambiance, enhancing your blissful state of healing and relaxation. The spa will be a destination in its own right and it will be no surprise if people travel specifically to the spa for the wonderful pampering. With tennis courts and a fitness centre nearby, your body, mind and soul will be given the utmost attention at this ultimate Caribbean retreat.
As Beggs points out, according to an article in the Robb Report magazine, the highest rated luxury resorts in the world are in secluded areas off the beaten path, and that is one of the reasons why he chose the East End of Grand Cayman. He feels that upscale vacationers yearn for peace and tranquillity and for anyone who wants to venture out, to George Town for a day of shopping or to Rum Point for some people-action for example, there will be shuttle buses in operation to go back and forth. He even plans on having a fleet of rental cars on premise should you want to just tour the island at your own freewill. Another reason why he chose Grand Cayman is because of the low crime rate, attractive legal system and tax environment and for what he feels is a huge gaping hole in the tourist product. “Very few countries in the world have a social society set up like the Cayman Islands. Almost every other Caribbean island, or Small Island Development State (SIDS), in the world relies on tourism and/ or fishing as their mainstays to their economy. All of those islands have a hospitality training centre and school to train the local population on service-oriented businesses. In the Cayman Islands, the tourism industry has developed at the expense of the financial industry, which has been the pillar and cornerstone of the economy, but now that other countries and offshore jurisdictions are starting to grow, such as Dubai, Singapore, Seychelles, Bermuda and Hong Kong, there is more competition in the financial market and the tourist market is now becoming a bigger factor here, so we need to make the necessary adjustments,” says Beggs.
“We can’t keep building condo after condo because 90 percent of people looking for a holiday are looking for a hotel room or suite. They want guaranteed vacation packages. A lot of people like to blame the current recession, the Department of Tourism, etc. The truth is we do not have the product to match market demands and global trends,” he says. Until now, of course. With plans for the Mandarin Oriental to be built in the East End, not too far away from the resort, Beggs is absolutely confident that this is the type of product people now desire. This is evident by selling out 33 percent in the last twelve months, setting a record for the industry in what was by all accounts less than a stellar year for Cayman real estate.“The market is always there. It’s the product that attracts the market. If you have the right product, people will come. That’s the way it works,” he says. And if we continue to build upscale, high-yield, low-impact resorts such as The Island Resort and Residences, Mandarin Oriental and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, it will bring in a tremendous amount of dollars to the island’s economy. Lund is so confident about this development that he has even purchased a suite himself. “It is a great opportunity to own a stunning vacation home, as well as an investment that will have strong rental income and great capital appreciation. There is little doubt with the sales activity to date, that not only will we be sold prior to completion, but we will likely have many re-sales as well,” says Lund.
The team will start preparing and clearing the site this spring, with plans to complete the project by September 2010. And judging by the level of detail and the meticulous planning that has gone into the resort, it is evident that Beggs has the necessary experience and tenacity to pull off such an ambitious and grand resort. He has the necessary ingredients to rise above the rest, leaving vacationers and owner’s alike coming back for seconds and thirds and…
Suites at The Island Resort and Residences start at US$699,000 and go up to US$6,950,000 for the ultimate penthouse suite. For more information, please contact Kim Lund at RE/MAX ((345)916 5555) () or go to the resort’s web site at www.theislandresort.com
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