Jekyll Town Center: First Glimpse at What’s Coming

In October of 2008, after a year of efforts by IPJI and complaints by thousands of Jekyll’s visitors, the proposal put forward by Linger Longer Communities for a densely developed Jekyll town center was reduced in size by two-thirds, sparing the beachfront between Jekyll’s convention center and Blackbeard’s restaurant from commercial development. Left unanswered at that time was the question of what the revised Jekyll town center would actually look like.

On July 14, 2009, that question was answered, in part, at a presentation by Helman, Hurley, Charvat & Peacock Architects (HHCP), the consultants to the JIA charged with determining the exact location of the town center’s various pieces and with designing its public components. The design of the center’s commercial structures—time-shares, condos, 2 hotels, and retail shops—will be handled by private developer Linger Longer Communities.

The presentation dealt with the redesigned entry road and relocated fee both (click here, note: large file); the site location of the town center’s retail stores, hotels, time-shares, condominiums, convention center and beachside park; landscaping and dune renourishment; convention center layout and design; the conceptualization of the retail area; the features of the new beach park (click here); the cost of the project (click here); and the construction schedule. 

The basics are that Jekyll will have a new entry road that will funnell through 2 roundabouts ending at a third overlooking a village green and a pedestrian shopping area with an open view of the beach. To the north of that area will be a new, enlarged convention center and a beach park that will include changing stations, rest rooms, picnic facilities, a beachfront promenade, and dune crossovers. To the south will be two hotels and a 160-unit time-share complex. Seventy-five condos are in the plan as loft units above the retail shops. Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of this year and to be completed in 2012.

Important questions about the forthcoming town center remain unanswered:

  • Will the private components of the town center take full advantage of the JIA’s lenient design guidelines, which allow for buildings up to 6-stories tall? If so, will the commercial buildings of that height dominate the town center’s landscape and detract from the aesthetic effect HHCP is trying to achieve through its emphasis on a low-rise, nature-friendly look for the town center’s public components?  
  • Will the planned roundabouts create St. Simons-like traffic snarls and be dangerous as well?
  • Will there be adequate beachside parking for day visitors, given that the main public parking lot will also be the main lot for Jekyll’s new and expanded convention center?
  • Will the new retail center be for high-end shops mainly? What will become of Jekyll’s current stores, both during the demolition/construction phase of the town center project and once the new retail center is built? Will a second retail area be built to accommodate the current shops that are not a “good fit” for a Linger Longer retail center?
  • Is the town center configured to handle large affairs such as the Blue Grass Festival or the Beach Music Festival?
  • Does a 160-unit time-share complex belong in the town center? The original design for a Jekyll town center, which appeared in the 2004 Jekyll Island Master Plan Update, included a new convention center, 2 new hotels and a new retail center but not any time-shares. Why has this component been added to the current plan? 
  • Does the town center project make fiscal sense for the cash-strapped JIA? Linger Longer says the town center project will net the JIA some $20 million in direct revenue over the first 15 years of its life. The JIA, however, is borrowing $50 million to pay for the town center’s infrastructure and will need more than $85 million to pay back this debt. Even with spin-off revenue generated by the town center, the project, which will net Linger Longer well over $100 million, may be a financial liability for the JIA and the state park.

To view HHCP's presentation to the JIA board, click here.