Westin will join Jekyll hotel mix

The Brunswick News

Date December 20, 2011 Section(s) Local News Byline By ANNA FERGUSON HALL

Westin hotels will be the second global nameplate entering Glynn County for the first time when it takes on operation of a 200-room hotel to be built on Jekyll Island.

Westin will join Hyatt on the state park island, where construction of a 135-room Hyatt Place hotel is to begin in January.

Jekyll Landmark Associates, which is developing the beachfront hotel site, had been in negotiations with Westin, Hilton and Marriott to operate the hotel, and the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the park, had informally said Hilton would get the contract.

At an authority board meeting Monday, Dave Curtis of Jekyll Landmark Associates said Westin would be the operator.

"Westin pushed ahead right here at the finish line," Curtis said.

The authority and hotel chain signed an agreement Friday, with construction to begin by summer and take about 16 months to complete.

As an international hotelier with a frequent guest program, having Westin operate on Jekyll Island could have major economic impact for the island and surrounding community, said Jones Hooks, executive director of the authority.

"This is major," Hooks said. "To have one of the world's top lodges in Glynn County, it's simply huge. This will bring opportunities to our community that we have never had before."

The Westin and Hyatt Place hotels are part of an island revitalization plan that includes a beachfront retail village and a new convention center.

Scheduled to open in May, the center - which is 79 percent complete - now has a name, as do roads leading to it. Hooks announced that the convention center would inherit the name of the center it will replace: Jekyll Island Convention Center.

"We wanted to keep it simple and straightforward," Hooks said.

Rooms inside the center now also have names. A holdover name from the former center, the 4,500-square foot, main ballroom will be known as Atlantic Hall, with meeting rooms named for geographic locations within the building. Those will be the Oceanside and Marshside meeting rooms.
"We didn't want cutesy," Hooks said.

Authority board chair Bob Krueger had responsibility for naming the outdoor meeting space, and decided on the Ben G. Porter Oceanside Salon. Porter is a former chair of the authority, and a salon is, by definition, "a drawing room, an assembly of distinguished people, and that is the clientele we hope to attract," Krueger said.

Two streets leading to the convention center and hotels also received names.

The road heading east from the island entrance, that will house the retail center, will be Main Street, and the road that intersects with it will be Convention Way, Hooks said.

Not everyone, however, is happy with the new names of the meeting rooms and streets.

While Convention Way does lead to the convention center, the name implies that the island revolves around the center, which isn't the case, said Curtis of Jekyll Landmark Associates.

"A lot of people will be staying at these hotels who are not here for a convention," Curtis said. "We weren't consulted about this name and were under the impression the name would be about 'beach' or 'ocean.' That would simply make more sense."

Island resident Frank Mirasola also said the Convention Way name and the Oceanside and Marshside meeting rooms names were out-of-step with island philosophies. The authority should consider more historical names, he said.

"Something like Oglethorpe, or DuBignon, that was what we were expecting," Mirasola said. "I think these (news) names are just short-sighted."

While the board approved the names recommended by its staff, it said it would consider changing the names after more research.