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Revitalization Update from Executive Director, Jones Hooks

Dear Jekyll Island Friends and Residents,

I hope you are a having a nice summer.  We have been extremely busy here on Jekyll Island with several revitalization projects underway plus a great increase in visitation to the island.  I appreciate the nice comments from many of you who have enjoyed the island improvements.  We are pleased with the progress to date.

The new Jekyll Island Westin is now 79% complete and is targeting an opening date by the end of this year.  Hotel room reservations are now open online, for those interested in being some of the first Westin guests.  Construction of the new Beach Village retail continues at a good pace.  We will begin the second phase of retail construction in August with an anticipated completion next spring.  There is limited retail space remaining for those interested in operating a business on Jekyll Island.  When complete, the Jekyll Island Beach Village will be the hub of activity for residents, convention delegates and guests.  We also expect area residents from Brunswick and St. Simons to enjoy the wonderful setting and unique shops and restaurants.

Demolition is complete and reconstruction is well underway at the new Holiday Inn Resort project.  As with any redevelopment project, plans adjust as unexpected situations are encountered.  The decision has been made to demolish the old restaurant building and build a new structure.  The new restaurant will be called The Beach House and will take full advantage of the ocean views.  The hotel is also expected to be complete this year.

More good news!  Fins on the Beach will soon reopen with a new name, new owner and new dining concept.  St. Simons Island residents Michelle and Georgia Stewart, owners of Sliders restaurant on Amelia Island, will open a “Baja Mexican” restaurant concept under a new business lease with the Jekyll Island Authority.  The new restaurant is expected to open in early 2015.

The Jekyll Island Authority Board approved a development concept to redevelop the former Jekyll Oceanfront Resort site.  This property has been closed and mostly vacant for 3 ½ years! Finally, we have a viable proposal to tear down the old structures and build a smaller development consisting of around 98 cottages and 75 garden apartments.  This project will provide housing for which there is a strong demand yet a limited supply.  The cottages will be available for individual purchase and can be placed in a homeowner’s rental program for vacation rentals.  The garden apartments will provide a needed residential housing option on the island.  This project reduces the density of the former resort, and also places new development in an existing footprint.

The Jekyll Island Authority Board also received an update from Trammell Crow with regard to the redevelopment of the former Buccaneer and Georgia Coast Inn sites.  Trammell Crow has secured the Courtyard by Marriott and SpingHill Suites “flags” through Marriott International.  Securing the two franchises for the first two of three hotels planned for the site required a non-refundable $150,000 deposit and demonstrates that this project is moving forward.  On Monday, the Jekyll Island Authority Board approved a lease amendment and assignments for the project which were required to proceed with hotel financing.

Civil engineering work has commenced for the new Jekyll Island Youth and Learning Center.  This is the project on the south end which will replace the Jekyll Island 4-H Center with a new facility.  The new facility will accommodate all of 4-H’s programs plus add space for other youth-oriented programs.  The project will provide all the modern amenities of a quality, safe youth retreat.  In fact, the Office of Planning and Budget has confirmed its support to complete the entire project scope.  The total budget for this project is now just over $16 million.

The continuation of revitalization has created great momentum for Jekyll Island.  The new convention center finished its second year of operation and regularly receives rave reviews.  It also significantly exceeded its net operating budget by $467,000, and added $101,000 to the Jekyll Island Authority’s bottom line.

Revitalization and strong visitation are encouraging other properties to also undertake improvement projects. The Beachview Club hotel will begin lobby and guestroom updates beginning this fall.  Villas by the Sea has plans to renovate their conference center beginning in December 2014.  The Jekyll Island Authority Board approved a list of short term capital improvement projects including the addition of a group pavilion at the Jekyll Island Campground.  Our winter guests at the campground will be pleased with this news as this project has been an unfunded priority for some time.

By the length of this update, you can see we have been very busy.  If you have not been to the island to see the improvements for yourself, I hope you will make plans to do so.  The revitalization of Jekyll Island is well underway and delivering on its promise of new and improved facilities while protecting the island’s character and natural beauty.

Come see us!

Sincerely,

Jones Hooks, Executive Director
Jekyll Island Authority