The Ritz-Carlton Residences
In the late '90s, when the Canadian developer, through his company Orion Developers, first had the opportunity to buy the land that The Ritz-Carlton presently sits on (the former spot of the Holiday Inn), he serendipitously noticed a “For Sale” sign on the parcel of land just across from the beachfront on West Bay Road. And so a vision was born; Ryan gobbled up that parcel too, giving him a total of 144 acres that spanned from ‘sea to sea’ – that is, from Seven Mile Beach to the North Sound – thus beginning the first seedlings of a vision that would catapult the resort into the number one rated Ritz-Carlton in the world (two years in a row) as well as consistently one of the top five resorts in the entire Caribbean. It also created a vehicle for Ryan to introduce a new concept to Grand Cayman by allowing individual purchasers whole ownership of their units while still being attached to The Ritz-Carlton brand – and all of the fabulous amenities and superior service that would come along with it. Ryan’s development was the first Ritz-Carlton to introduce whole-ownership real estate to the equation – a model that has since been emulated many times over and can now be found all over the world. Thus, The Residences were borne, and opened their doors in December 2005 with a grand inaugural weekend that included concerts by Tony Bennett and Sheryl Crow. Featuring 93 luxury beachfront condos, the $500 million property also boasts Silver Rain, a La Prairie Spa; five dining venues, including a restaurant by Eric Ripert of top-ranked New York restaurant Le Bernardin; and the island’s largest ballroom. In addition to all of these amenities, owners also have the option of the Endless Service Program, a turnkey service that includes access to a fleet of BMW’s, privately captained Intrepid power boats, and special interior design packages including top-of-the-line appliances, electronics, china and glassware, to name just a few.
Ryan was so successful at identifying this niche market that he forged a partnership with The Ritz-Carlton to continue to develop the remaining acres, including Blue Tip, a Greg Norman-designed nine-hole golf course; the Ambassadors of the Environment children’s’ programme by Jean-Michel Cousteau; and a tennis programme designed by famed coach Nick Bollettieri and staffed by graduates of his acclaimed academy. Within less than three years, the ultra luxury development has led the way in changing the face of resort real estate, not only in Grand Cayman, but also throughout the Caribbean. From the very beginning, its involvement in branded real estate with its “co-branding” partnerships has helped secure The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s position at the top of the travel, real estate, architecture and guest satisfaction lists worldwide. However, just like all true pioneering developments, it has not been without set backs – initial financing issues, difficult logistical components, controversy from locals and environmental groups alike, and of course, Hurricane Ivan. Says Ryan: “People are fearful of change. It’s natural and normal and anytime you go to do something new you will get opposition. What we are turning this island into is what it’s always wanted to be – a high-end destination. I’m a huge proponent of the idea that the future of Grand Cayman is in high-end second home residential real estate – not just cruise ships.”
So far, the result is very impressive. The resort is steadily expanding with development underway of two more residential island communities: The DeckHouses and Secret Harbour; both located within the current heart of the resort and interconnected by a series of navigable waterways that open up into the North Sound. The canal system is eco-friendly, as all shorelines are freeform without any bulkhead materials. Instead, the utilisation of riprap rocks creates deep pockets underneath the water, encouraging eco-life such as iguanas and a variety of fish to enter the area. As an owner, whether you wish to captain your own boat or use the resort’s planned ferry service, you will be transported anywhere you can get to by water, from the hotel to the restaurants to the spa to the golf course to the airport. The resort has also aligned itself with Riva boats, which is, per linear foot, one of the most expensive boats in the world and considered the Rolls Royce of watercraft. Ryan has purchased an iconic AquaRiva which can be seen from time to time in all its maritime design glory glistening at the docks at Periwinkle, one of the Ritz-Carlton’s outdoor eateries. A true work of art, the legendary watercraft has been a major muse in the design of The DeckHouses right down to inspiring the attached boathouse featured on each of the homes where owners can house their boats for viewing pleasure… almost like an art gallery. In yet another co-branding deal, Orion Developers is in deep conversations with the Ferretti Group (owner of Riva) to purchase a major part of Riva’s production line for the next few years as well as the rights to a Riva Café restaurant brand that they will own and run on the premises.
Another significant step toward the paradigm shift of creating a true life on the water has been the opening of the Ritz-Carlton’s airport boat dock. As soon as you arrive at the Owen Roberts Airport, whether you are a guest or owner, you have the option of being transported to the hotel or your home by water. You will be picked up in a boat off the dock and taken along the North Sound – just a 5 minute drive - directly to the resort, literally starting your island vacation experience from the moment you step off of the airplane. Explains David Camp, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, “We’ve found that those who have discovered the Cayman Islands have discovered that it’s about being on the water. We want to start that experience for our owners and guests right away. Forget fighting traffic on your way to your vacation destination. Our goal is to flip-flop the perception that Seven Mile Beach is the front of the resort property. The North Sound is already a treasure chest of adventure and is on its way to becoming the gateway to our entire community.”
The key to Ryan’s success? He knew that if he wanted to be the best Ritz-Carlton in the world that everything related to the resort would have to be the best of the best and go beyond what everyone else was doing. For him, it has always been about superior service and The Ritz-Carlton historically prides itself on giving personal and memorable experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. However, he knew that he had to go beyond this corporate model. In his words, “What is service? It’s an experience. So how do I make that experience work? We’ve been studying the service model. Is transporting the hotel service model to the real estate model the way of the future? Yes and no. You want to find the essence of the hotel experience and deliver it in a residential way that works. We have found that it’s beyond being able to get anything you want; it’s what the Ritz-Carlton affectionately refers to as creating the ‘art of anticipation.’ The ultimate service is when the person at your service catches on to what your preferences and wishes are with little egging on – when special touches become customary and your needs are anticipated and carried out before you even know you want them. So the residential service model we are looking at is to deliver that service experience. We are building and working with The Ritz-Carlton as our partner to take it all to the next level, such as owners having their own private butlers.”
Although a lot of hard work, sweat and tears went into the making of the development, you wouldn’t know it by Ryan’s easy charm and positive, can-do attitude and it is fascinating to hear him explain how it all came together in his mind. “Why do people come to Cayman? For many reasons. It’s in the Caribbean, so you want to have great seafood. Who is the best seafood chef in the world? Eric Ripert. Great, let’s get Eric Ripert. The water is also a draw. Who’s the name in marine conservation? Jacques Cousteau of course. Let’s get Cousteau [son Jean-Michel]; but instead of children paddling around in a ducky water wing, they need to interact in the water in a proactive and educational way. Golf – well, that’s a no-brainer. Who’s the number one waterside course designer in the world? Greg Norman. Perfect, we’ve got him!
“What else do we want for the ultimate resort experience? We need a great pampering spa experience. La Prairie is the pinnacle brand in product and has spas in Europe, but there weren’t any in North America and certainly not in the Caribbean. So we met with them just as they were thinking of bringing out another product line. In the process of designing the Silver Rain spa, the whole line of La Prairie Silver Rain came into being – I have one hundred of the prototypes of silver rain drops to prove it,” Ryan says with a smile. Just when you think it sounds so effortless, Ryan adds, “the best of the best is easy to say but hard as hell to do.” Regardless, his approach is paying off in spades. “The market has caught up with us and I take that as a complement. We are now the poster-child for The Ritz-Carlton. They now fly in their prospective Ritz-Carlton hotel property owners to say ‘this is what it can be’ and so now other people are trying to emulate it; which is why we are so glad that we positioned ourselves so that the best that anyone else can do is to say they have the second best.”
The DeckHouses are the result of a whirlwind, six-day 12-country, 32-property tour that the development team took last summer to seek out the most alluring aspects and elements of island living. Armed with the experiences of that trip, they were able to determine what works best and what affluent homebuyers appreciate the most, then set out to create Phase Two of The Residences – The DeckHouses. A private peninsula sculpted into mini-estates with private coves ad water frontage, The DeckHouses feature 19 single-family homes on a private island surrounded by water and the golf course to evoke calm, peaceful living just steps away from all of The Ritz-Carlton resort amenities. Each home is uniquely positioned for the best prevailing breezes behind tropical foliage and private gates and is connected with a main drive. Each of the three-story homes contain five bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms (including a private guest cottage) evocative of Colonial Caribbean architecture but with unique twists and features by Zurcher Arquitectos, based in Costa Rica, with Cayman stone-clad walls, cedar finished siding, and warm, natural materials and finishes.
Interior designer Pamela Hughes of internationally recognised Hughes Design Associates has designed two distinct interior design collections each offering two schemes differing in colour palettes, textures and fabric designs (The West Indies Collection captures a traditional flavour of the Caribbean and The Modern Collection integrates clean and contemporary lines with the owner’s choice of neutral tones or vibrant island hues). The 6,300 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space also features state-of-the-art appliances, electronics and custom furnishings throughout, and includes sun decks and terraces made of exotic hardwood and rich stain finishes. Boasting over 100 feet of water frontage, crushed stone and water features, the resort or ground level of each home offers a private beach, infinity-edge pool, summer kitchen, separate guest cottage with decks and water views, and a private boathouse with a lift. Imagine the feeling of being concealed behind landscaped gardens and palm-lined streets, situated in between canals that pour into the North Sound, and then having the ability to move from the deck of your luxury home to the deck of a luxury boat with access to everything the resort – and Cayman – has to offer, all in one seamless motion. Says Camp: “Your daily life will revolve around the water thanks to the network of waterways that tie the community together. You can step out into your boathouse, fire up your boat and cruise to dinner at one of the many restaurants on the property. Or, you can hop on one of the water taxis and be delivered to the shops or to an appointment at the spa.”
Additionally, other lifestyle options will be available to DeckHouse owners, including your own private butler, ownership of a Riva boat, a luxury vehicle, and a personal golf cart, which will come in handy when you play a round of golf using your lifetime golf membership on Blue Tip. There are also a number of services available from daily housekeeping services to in-home dining by The Ritz-Carlton to call-ahead grocery and house preparation services. Ranging in price from US$3.8 to 5.6 million, the success of the initial release of The DeckHouses has poised the community to be right on track if not ahead of construction schedules. The vast majority of major infrastructure is complete. The main road, DeckHouse Drive, is in place and the private coves are taking shape. Building permits have been received and as of press time the homes are already half sold since their release in fall 2007.
If a seaside village atmosphere is more your style, then Secret Harbour is the choice for you. Planned to consist of up to 120 new residential offerings hugging a lively harbour on another private island within the resort community, these luxury multi-family residences will consist of one- to three-bedroom villas and lofts, with prices starting at $650,000 (due to its higher density and smaller square footage the lower price point will be able to open up the opportunity for Ritz-Carlton living to a broader segment of potential purchasers). Designed by Zurcher Arquitectos and VITA Planning & Landscape Architecture, Secret Harbour will emulate the charm and spirit of maritime villages throughout Europe. Imagine handmade tiles, craftsman iron doors, grapevine trellises, quaint terraces and shady rooftop gardens peppered along sun-drenched promenades and grand canals. Each waterfront home will boast views of the canals, golf course and the expansive North Sound; a private Secret Harbour concierge will welcome you at the Clubhouse dock upon your arrival.
As an owner of a Secret Harbour residence you will also have complete access to the facilities and amenities of The Ritz-Carlton resort as well as exclusive offerings such as the Secret Harbour fitness centre, parks, a clubhouse and pool, a café and water ferry depot. Says Ryan, “The Residences, including The Deckhouses, have been so well received that we are now in a position to go to the marketplace with a new product line of homes that will be built on the traditions of Old World charm, but with all the privileges of the modern world.” He added, “Built-in efficiencies and open floor plans allow us to price Secret Harbour lower than previous offerings. The uniqueness will be in the details [such as the ones mentioned above] and the services, amenities and convenient location by the water and golf course will make Secret Harbour one of the most sought-after properties in the Caribbean.” Envision strolling the promenade to your villa or loft as boats emerge from under a vaulted archway into the harbour that you call your home away from home. Priority reservations are currently being accepted for the initial release of Secret Harbour with building expected to commence in 2009.
All of these fabulous perks mentioned aren’t just for adults – your children will also enjoy the many programmes available at the resort. For example, you can drop them at the Ambassadors of the Environment, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s family programme for a day or evening of eco-adventure programs. The programme is hugely popular and is a true shining gem of the resort according to Brooke Clark, Director of Marketing for The Residences. “Everything is completely earth friendly. The programme’s name speaks for itself. It is our responsibility to create little environmental ambassadors out of our youth and it starts early here.” There is a play room and arts and crafts classes where you can make puppets out of biodegradable materials, for example. There are day and night snorkeling trips to teach kids about the health of coral reefs and how to protect the treasured ecosystems including Cayman’s fabled stingrays and sea turtles. Children have the opportunity to take underwater photographs and videos, which can later be edited down in the ‘editing room’ computer lab onsite for their very own Cousteau-inspired video or slideshow. The programme also offers kayak tours and lessons on the mangroves and team building at the rock climb wall. “They even have their own little herb garden and the entire facility is solar powered including a solar power oven,” says Clark. She adds that the safety and security of the Cayman Islands compared to many other Caribbean destinations attracts droves of young families and that The Residences are an extension of that trend. “We are a family resort. We have come to own that and I believe that of all of our world-class amenities, The Ambassadors of The Environment is one of our brightest and most relevant differentiators.”
Additionally, the tennis centre, under the direction of Nick Bollettieri, legendary coach of tennis stars such as Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova, offers a variety of clinics and programmes for children as well as adults. The recent success of the Legends Championships with John McEnroe and Jim Courier, held at The Residences this past April, is the first of many professional events to come that will surely put the resort, and Grand Cayman, on the world map for tennis, something the island hasn’t been able to do thus far.
Exclusive Island is yet another micro-community within the master plan. A gated community strictly for members of the private vacation club, Exclusive Resorts, Exclusive Island came to be after Ryan connected with Steve Case of AOL fame. “Steve saw what we were doing with the original 93 Residences and wanted to buy a collection of them to add to Exclusive Resorts portfolio of vacation rental options for their discerning club members. I said, ‘I’ll do something even better for you – how about I build you your own island?’ Although the properties are strictly for the enjoyment of those members of Exclusive Resorts, the vacationers have full use of The Ritz-Carlton’s amenities and services. Exclusive Island has its own concierge and a family golf cart exclusive to each home. Having opened one year ago, the property has consistently ranked the number one destination in demand by the vacation club members, a nice testament to the idea that one does not have to live right on Seven Mile Beach to have a phenomenal island vacation experience and to be connected to all the resort offers. It doesn’t stop here though. Ryan has plans for further development of a full master-planned community after recently acquiring 220 acres of additional land on the northwest side of the resort, which was formally The Links at Safehaven. Greg Norman’s golf course design company has already signed on to add a “back nine” to the existing Blue Tip course which will weave in and out of existing and new canals peppered with small island communities, including residential, leisure, recreational and commercial components as well as a planned harbour marina and town centre. Ryan’s new frontier, it seems, will appeal to all potential owners. “Whether you are someone who wants a gorgeous, sexy loft with big open space and light, to inhabit your own private island estate, or to live in a bustling townhouse community with lots of activity; from wine bars to coffee shops, from yachting to yoga – we’ve got you covered. We can provide that and all owners get the same level of service,” he says.
Ryan gives an insightful analogy to the success of the resort and his vision, referring to noted philosopher Buckminister Fuller’s theory of ‘Cosmic Fishing,’ “There are many ideas floating around us at all times and people who choose to open their minds and stick out their mental fishing poles can all catch the same fish –everyone is connected. But it’s up to you to see the patterns in life, recognise when they are coming together, and then apply your tenacity.” Ryan has cast his pole before and the current success of The Ritz-Carlton has been a prize catch. But the real reward is still out there for anyone who chooses to cast their line. This is just the beginning; and The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton’s canals and island-based communities are not only the perfect embodiment of his pioneering mind, but Grand Cayman’s new frontier.
For more information, please contact:
The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton at 345.815.7777
or by email:
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