Old inn site will become new hotel

The Brunswick News

A third major hotel chain could add its nameplate to the Jekyll Island oceanfront.

The board of the Jekyll Island Authority, meeting Monday at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, approved a plan that would allow the Oceanside Inn and Suites, 711 North Beachview Drive, Jekyll Island, to be gutted to its architectural skeleton and replaced with a Holiday Inn Resort.

"We're not talking about just new furnishings and a new paint job," said Jones Hooks, executive director of the authority that oversees the state park. "This is basically a brand new hotel."

The Oceanside Inn and Suites is still operating, but is in need of repairs. As the first hotel constructed on the island in 1958, and originally called the Wanderer, Oceanside Inn will close in August.

Holiday Inn officials hope to reopen the facility by late spring 2014.

The renovated two-story Holiday Inn will feature about 155 rooms, a fitness center, swimming pool and meeting facilities that could be used in conjunction with the Jekyll Island Convention Center, said Ray Lewis of Georgia Coast Holdings, the company in charge of the project.

Vistas would be created to allow motorists on Beachview Drive to see the ocean.

Jeff Lewis, the project's architect, acknowledges the current facility has aesthetic problems.

"My feeling on this is, let's take the worst possible situation and make it the best," Lewis said. "The first thing you see when you come down Beachview Drive is that building, and it's not necessarily what you want to see."

The project will not cost the Jekyll Island Authority and will result in $16 million in private investment.

The news of Holiday Inn Resort's presence on Jekyll Monday was coupled with the announcement of a starting date for construction of the proposed Westin hotel.

The Westin is part of the island's revitalization plan and will eventually be constructed next to a 120-room Hyatt Place hotel and Beach Village retail shopping center.

Construction of the Westin has hit several speed bumps since the project was announced, but the hotel is expected to become a reality, with a groundbreaking set for April 15.

"We're just about to the finish line, and it's our goal, and I think we can meet that goal, to have a groundbreaking at your next board meeting," said David Curtis, executive vice president of Jekyll Landmark Associates, the company responsible for the Westin.

One announcement at the board meeting may have taken some by surprise.

The current revitalization projects may be the only new construction allowed on Jekyll - if a proposed update of the island's master plan is accepted and approved by the authority's board.

The provision that could put the brakes on any future development is the one that deals with how much of the island remains in a natural state. State law requires 65 percent of the island to remain undeveloped.

That number may be closer to 62 percent when island revitalization is complete, or 3 percent under what is allowed by state law.

A task force in charge of making decisions on how the authority should stay in line with the state law has mapped the island based on scientific standards that put Jekyll over the 35 percent developable limit.

Jekyll officials have said in the past that there are about 55 acres left on the island that could be developed. That might not be so.

The discrepancy comes from a new mapping system that uses laser technology on the island's oceanfront side and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Marshland Protection Act jurisdictional line on the marsh side. The new measurement also excludes the extensive marshlands, which were included as part of the island's mass in the 1996 plan.

Adopting the recommendation would not impact current revitalization projects because construction is taking place on land that is already considered developed.

The authority board has the final say on what makes it into the master plan.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at nwiley@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.

Artist rendering presented to JISPA Board on March 18, 2013