Developers take new look at Jekyll redevelopment

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By Dan Chapman
January 19, 2010

Sixty developers, hoteliers and building contractors gather Wednesday and Thursday on Jekyll Island to consider jump-starting the state park’s stalled redevelopment plans.

Jekyll’s major revitalization plan was jeopardized last month when the park authority canceled its contract with an upscale developer that promised to build $170 million worth of hotels, condos and shops on the barrier island much loved by vacationing Atlantans.

The focus this week shifts to finding another developer that can relatively quickly deliver one building -- a minimum 300-room full-service hotel -- by early 2012, when a new convention center is scheduled to open.

“The response has been very strong. We’re very pleased,” Eric Garvey, the Jekyll Island Authority’s marketing director, said Tuesday. “Hopefully, we can move fairly quickly.” Garvey added that, if all goes well this week, the authority could submit construction bids by mid-February.

The lingering recession, though, could again thwart redevelopment. The economy and tight credit stymied developer Linger Longer’s plan to build hundreds of hotel rooms, condos, time-share units, upscale shops and parks. On Dec. 8 the Authority pronounced the deal dead, citing Linger Longer’s inability to hit its 2012 deadlines.

The deal’s demise heartened Jekyll redevelopment opponents who chafed at the 25-year management contract given Linger Longer, as well as unusually generous profit-sharing terms.

David Egan, who led the opposition, said Tuesday that lucrative financial inducements aren’t necessary.

“The incentives to build on this island are inherent: a site on the ocean, a built-in convention business, golf, tennis, beach, bike paths, hiking trails, the historic district,” said Egan, co-director of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll. “This large number of (potential) developers attests to the fact that people look at this island as an attractive place to build and invest.”

The authority appears less likely to again enter into such a deal.

“A competitive environment on the development side would seem to generate a better proposal for the Jekyll Island Authority,” he said.

He added that, unlike before, the island’s governing board will likely parcel out construction projects. An economy-class hotel, for example, is the authority’s second highest priority, Garvey said.