Jekyll Town Center Project

On January 20/21, the JIA met with more than 60 developers and contractors interested in the various private components of the Jekyll town center project. The main purposes of the meeting were to familiarize those in attendance with Jekyll Island’s attractions; describe the development opportunities within the town center site; and encourage developer responses to the JIA’s soon to be issued Request for Proposals (RFP) regarding the commercial/private components of the Jekyll town center. Details on what was covered at the meeting can be found at the two links below.

Points of Special Interest:
The hotel capacity the JIA is aiming for in the town center has increased from the previously proposed 350 rooms to 500 rooms. Two options were laid out for achieving this goal:
     1) A beachfront 350-room hotel, 4-5 stories tall; plus an off-beach 150-room economy hotel, 4 stories tall.
     2) A pair of 4 story beachfront hotels, totaling 380 rooms; plus an off-beach 120-room economy hotel; all three of these hotels would have four levels.
Depending on which of the two hotel plans the JIA selects, Jekyll’s new retail center will have either 28,000 or 40,000 square feet. Loft condos are part of both retail plans, as is a building height limit of four stories.

The previously proposed 5.5 acre beachfront time-share project just north of the Days Inn was not mentioned by JIA spokesmen, but there is no way of knowing for sure what the JIA intends for this property until the Authority issues its Request for Proposals from prospective private partners, which is scheduled for release on February 12, 2009. IPJI has argued that, since public demand – especially by day visitors – for access to Jekyll’s main beach will increase in coming years as Georgia’s coastal population continues to grow, the site adjacent to the Days Inn, which is currently open beach space with public access and parking, should not be commercialized. IPJI believes that the soon to be expanded public park to the north of Jekyll’s convention center will not provide sufficient beachside parking during peak season and will become increasingly inadequate as visitation grows in years to come.

The JIA is hoping that the private development projects in the town center will be completed by the time of the opening of Jekyll’s new convention center, which is scheduled for March of 2012.

Click here to read the JIA booklet, “Jekyll Island Revitalization: Development Opportunities [includes illustrations of town center plans]

Media Coverage:

Developer showcase one step in Jekyll Island revitalization efforts
Officials hope for new construction as part of revitalization efforts

Georgia Times-Union

By Carole Hawkins
Friday, Jan. 22, 2010

JEKYLL ISLAND - Seventy developers from 50 companies braved pouring rain and a stagnant real estate market to learn about building opportunities at Jekyll Island's beach village.

The developer showcase Wednesday and Thursday was the first step in the Jekyll Island Authority's three-month strategy to draw private development back into park revitalization plans.

"We are looking for our portion of construction to be done by spring 2012," said authority Executive Director Jones Hooks. "We would like to have by then, not only a convention center, but the private assets that will support that convention center."

The state will spend $50 million over two years to build a new convention center, entry roads, a village green, beachside park, bathhouse and bike trails at the 45-acre site. It needs private developers to construct the project's beachside hotels and shops.

That will fill a gap left by master planner, Linger Longer Communities, which withdrew from the beach village project a month ago, with the mutual consent of the authority, amid delays in securing construction financing.

If news developers are eager to build, the authority plans to solicit construction proposals in February and March and to award its contracts in April.

During the showcase, builders from five states toured Jekyll's vacation offerings and attended a presentation of the future village design.

The developers used breaks in the meetings to hurriedly call offices and to shake hands with potential collaborators. It was too soon to say, however, if window shoppers will become buyers. Commitments, they said, would hinge on whether they and their financial backers will see a profit.

"It's an attractive opportunity, but I have concerns obviously about the economy we're operating in," said Steve Edwards of Stafford Properties in Atlanta. "It's hard to operate a hotel on 50 percent occupancy."

Bert Poosen of IMIC Hotels said he'd been in the business 42 years and times are as hard as he's ever seen.

"We're pleased to see the authority is moving forward with the public portion of this. We need to see these things in order for developers to be willing to move forward," he said.

Richard Grayson of JEN-AL Developments Inc. said the authority will need those hotel commitments in order to get builders for its retail stores.

"It's a chicken and egg situation," he said. "If there are enough rooftops, then we can build retail. In this case the rooftops are hotel rooms."

If a large hotel company commits to the project, it would show other builders that demand for the location has reached a critical mass.

Tom Powers of Peachtree Real Estate Advisors said Jekyll has enough positives to interest developers. The ocean sets it apart from other locations. The project has significant public investment and developers can lease land rather than buy it.

It seems like a no-brainer, Powers said, but in today's real estate environment, investors pause, even before jumping on beachside development.

"There are things we're talking about today that three or four years ago, we wouldn't have been talking about," he said.