Jekyll managers look past delay in plans
The Brunswick News
February 23, 2012
By NIKKI WILEY

A day after the planned Jekyll Island Beach Village project of shops and restaurants was temporarily stalled, other elements of the island's revitalization plan were moving forward Wednesday.

Westin hotel officials said Wednesday that their hotel in the larger revitalization plan will be operated by Westin's franchise, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Jekyll Island managers Wednesday were scheduling media tours of the replacement convention center that has been completed in time to open in May.

The original island revitalization plan called completion of a convention center, Beach Village and three hotels in September 2012.

The project was split among different contractors, allowing for staggered completion times, and scaled down to two hotels after the original developer, Linger Longer, expressed uncertainty about the availability of financing in a weak economy.

Now, the hotels and Beach Village will be completed after the convention center.

The 200-room Westin hotel, to be constructed by Jekyll Landmark Associates, could be completed by February 2014, well after the convention center is opened.

Another hotel, a 135-room Hyatt Place, constructed by Phelps Developers, could be opened as early as Spring 2013.

The Beach Village is at a standstill after the Jekyll Island Authority board, which operates the state park island, at a meeting Tuesday ended its contract with developer Winding Road, because Winding Road was unable to secure financing.

The board should receive a staff plan to replace the developer by its meeting in March and move forward, said Eric Garvey, Jekyll Island Authority chief communications officer.

The fact that the hotels will not be opened at the same time as the convention center has caused some convention planners to hold off on decisions on booking the new convention center, Garvey said.

Overall, response to the center has been positive, he said. "In a way, we knew (the delay) was going to be an issue, but overall we're pleasantly surprised."

More than 200 meetings have been booked for the new center, the state's only beachfront convention center, through 2016. That is expected to create a $40 million economic impact for the Golden Isles.