Meet the women who helped get Kapok open for business

Group of women
The team of women who helped get Kapok's doors opened to residents (from left): Dart Property Manager Ally McRae, Dart Vice President Business Development and Leasing Kristy Rivers, Dart Visual Designer Keri Lawrence, Dart Junior Visual Designer Gabrielle Scott, Dart Senior Property Manager Juliet Grant, Provenance Properties Sales Manager Ainjalia Muriu and Dart Landscape Designer Jessica Barefoot. (Missing from photo: interior designer Dana Nauta.)

It takes a village…to create a home.

The latest – inanimate – member of the Camana Bay community is Kapok, a 10-storey residential building, comprising apartments for rent and ground-floor services, that sits at the intersection of Solaris Avenue and Steve Foster Way. Kapok recently received two International Property Awards (for Architecture Multiple Residence, Cayman Islands and Landscape Architecture, Cayman Islands) and is receiving equally strong reviews from its new residents.

The “village” that helped move Kapok from a completed construction project to a move-in-ready home was a collection of experts – many of whom are women – from the residential and commercial real estate industry, property management field and visual, landscape and interior design arena. In recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Camana Bay Times spoke to these women about the role they and their teams played in putting the final touches on Kapok and filling it with the residents who have transformed the building into, well, home.

Welcome home

A home is complete only once it is inhabited.

The Provenance Properties Cayman Islands sales team, helmed by Dart Vice President Business Development and Leasing Kristy Rivers, led the charge on filling Kapok, resulting in a 90% full building by completion.

"As the building was under construction, we were not able to offer site tours prior to move-in. To achieve a 90% lease-up without showcasing the property in-person to future residents is a significant accomplishment," Rivers noted.

The team walked potential residents through the rental process, from sharing initial building renders and concepts to signing leases and welcoming them on move-in day. "It is critical for Provenance Properties, the brokerage attached to Dart's real estate development, to stay connected to the process from design through delivery and occupancy," Rivers said. "This helps to ensure that client input remains top of mind."

Rivers’ commercial leasing team has also been busy filling the ground-floor spots with businesses that complement and add value to residents – announcements will soon be made regarding the building’s ground-floor tenants.

"The commercial leasing team has equal opportunity to be at the table providing input on the best possible layout and positioning for the amenity-led retail at Kapok," said Rivers. "We have longstanding relationships with our existing tenants and we work closely with them to understand their needs for expansion and relocation.

"We also work very collaboratively to ensure that the needs of our newest residents are well considered and new retailers are thoughtfully positioned to complement our existing Town Centre dynamic."

Together, the Provenance Properties and commercial leasing teams are able to offer valuable insight on the customers' needs and work with Dart's teams to address these. "As a company, we are constantly learning and evolving, monitoring global trends and then working to craft a product that is of the place, unique to Cayman and aligned with our design excellence principles at Camana Bay," Rivers explained.

A lasting first impression

Dart Senior Property Manager Juliet Grant and Property Manager Ally McRae are also involved from the moment leases are signed to move-in and beyond. The pair get to know each and every resident who walks through the doors, as they are the primary point of contact for all who live at Kapok. “My role in property management gives me the opportunity to build relationships…so that Camana Bay is always filled with friendly, familiar faces,” said McRae, noting that it is through these relationships that a sense of community in the Town Centre is developed.

“It was so satisfying for me to experience [the new residents’] smiles as they took in the breathtaking views,” said Grant. “During orientation, I am always proud to be able to highlight the conveniences they can enjoy on their doorstep, and how safe the community is.”

These conveniences and their accessibility are a critical part of Fitwel’s principles, which provided the design team with a wellness “blueprint” for the building. FitWel grants certifications to buildings and developments that meet specific criteria that align with a “vision for a healthier future,” and designing Kapok to achieve this certification is a first for the Caribbean region. Dart Landscape Designer Jessica Barefoot noted that Fitwel helped the teams ensure aspects important to a residential development were integrated into the final design. “For example, routes to other amenities, such as pocket parks and water fountains, were considered,” she said.

Dark haired woman smiles at camera
Interior designer Dana Nauta

Inside Kapok

On entering the building’s lobby, its design ethos comes to life. The outside is brought in, with mixed natural fibre textures and plant motifs throughout – even the name “Kapok” comes from horticulture, as the kapok is a variety of tree. Interior designer Dana Nauta led her team in creating a bohemian, minimalistic design that made the most of natural elements.

“The interiors of the apartments were designed to feel bright and welcoming left as is, while allowing the residents to infuse their own style,” Nauta said, noting that a neutral palette enables the residents to personalise their home. “Simple added touches like a throw blanket, a piece of art, a tossed pillow or house plant could easily transform the space.”

Nauta also spoke to the practicality of her design, pointing out that the dining benches, cocktail tables and beds all contain hidden storage. She also hoped to further influence a love of the outdoors in residents’ spaces. “I included a planter in every unit to encourage residents to get a house plant – I am a plant lover and I think everyone else should be too!”

Of course, Nauta ensured that the building’s common areas weren’t missed from a design perspective. “In the public spaces I had a bit more fun with elements that link back to the kapok tree. For example, the large arches are reminiscent of the dramatic buttress roots and the geometric floor patterns give a nod to the unique thorns found on the kapok tree trunk.”

Kapok in mural form

The tree was also woven into the poolside mural on the building's second floor, which evokes the kapok tree’s leaves and seeds, designed by Dart Visual Designer Keri Lawrence and Junior Visual Designer Gabrielle Scott. The design teams worked closely together to ensure they collectively understood the vision for Kapok’s aesthetic and ambience. The pool's blues are complemented by the greens of the plant-centric mural design, which features pops of colour in the mural that are so bright that they can even be seen from the pavement outside the building. When asked to summarise the Kapok aesthetic in a few words, Lawrence offered: “Organic. Colourful. Minimal.”

“Dana talked us through the vibe of the building as well as gave us some colours used around the building,” explained Lawrence of hers and Scott’s mural design process. While leaning on the Kapok brand for its circular elements and colours, Lawrence and Scott also drew inspiration from the kapok tree. “The shape of the leaf is hidden in there and there are also black dots throughout the design that were inspired by the black kapok seeds that are seen on the cotton pods the tree produces.”

The collaboration between teams included landscaping, too. “Our landscape team [worked] closely with the architects and interior designers to help blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors throughout the project,” explained Barefoot. “Landscaping is threaded throughout the site, including the pool and rooftop deck.”

That wrap-around rooftop deck is one of Kapok’s many gems and was listed as a favourite by many of the team members who worked on the project. “The views are stunning, stretching far into the North Sound on the east and the views of Seven Mile Beach to the west,” Barefoot said. “I could dream of watching those sunsets on the deck!”

A powerful team

All in all, Kapok was a rewarding project for the leasing, property management and design professionals involved, as well as for its residents. “I have been involved with this project from start to finish,” said Barefoot. “It has been thrilling to watch the design evolve and see the amount of people involved in the delivery of a project of this scale.”

“It has brought me great joy to be able to welcome our first residents to Kapok,” said Grant. “I felt their anticipation as they were escorted to their new home, because most said they bought into this concept without being able to see an actual unit.”

Nauta enjoyed working with a powerhouse team, especially one so filled with female talent, to get the project across the finish line. “It was great working with the entire team throughout the whole process. Keri and I collaborated on the pool deck mural and it all unfolded very organically; with a few back-and-forth conversations she hit the ground running – and painting! She has been sending progress photos and it is beautiful to see everything coming together!”

Rivers echoed the rewards of seeing a project through from start to finish, assisting residents and collaborating as a team for a shared goal. "It is a huge team effort to transition a building through the final stages of the construction process, shifting focus from form to functionality. We work in tandem with our construction and property management teams to ensure that no details are overlooked and our residents feel warmly welcomed into their new homes."

Ultimately, the reward for McRae was being involved in something truly unique. “As the first 10-storey for-lease building in Cayman, Kapok represents something brand-new for Cayman’s real estate market.”

This article was originally featured in the March 2023 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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